Showing posts from 2012

1000+ Posts

I realized this evening that, when I hit the 'publish' button, I will have published 1009 blog posts since September 1st, 2004. Anne Hall created this blog for me so that I wouldn't have to send group emails; ever at the vanguard of technology, she realized that the blog might be well suited as an online journal that would enable me to share my journey with others.

As I scroll through the photos and posts, it's amazing how much has changed in eight years. Guys I entered with have left, men I admired have died, and many others have entered my life. When I entered at the age of 24, I thought I had everything figured out. Today, at 33, I realize how little I know and I am often overwhelmed when I think about how many things I have yet to learn.

Looking toward 2013, my singular hope - in addition to growing in grace and virtue - is to continue to grow in boldness. I am acutely aware of being a public presence, one of many faces of the Church, yet I cannot help but to feel…

Merry Christmas from your friends at The Jesuit Post


Advent of Doubt

Yesterday, one of the more talented young men I've had the pleasure of getting to know contacted me with the following:
To put it succinctly, I've been struggling with my faith. There have been times in the past year or so when I've questioned God's existence and the existence of an afterlife. I've entertained the idea that maybe there isn't anything beyond this life. But that's a harsh perspective to hold on to for any length of time. I have given it a good deal of thought over the past few months, but today I think I nailed it down to two main issues:1. I don't get much out of going to church anymore. I've stopped attending mass regularly. I used to feel a real spiritual need that was satisfied at mass, but that has gone away. Now, it seems empty, like pure ritual. I have a hard time focusing and I just feel out of place in church. I understand that feelings come and go, but it's hard to get over.2. This is my main beef. The Catholic Church as…

Undergoing the Question

I shared yesterday Les Murray's haunting poem "The Knockdown Question" and, today, I'd like to return to it.  Why does God not spare the innocent? The answer to that is not in
the same world as the question
so you would shrink from me
in terror if I could answer it.  You see, it's the last two lines that fascinate me. Why would one "shrink" away "in terror" from the one who bears the answer to innocent suffering?

On Friday, in addition to the sadness I felt for those gunned down in Newtown, I felt great sorrow for Adam Lanza. I simply cannot fathom how much pain he must have been, how dark his world had become, that that made this act an option he could consider, let alone enact.

What Murray seems to grasp in so few words is that the mystery of human suffering tramples upon our words. It's so disturbing, so awful, that it leaves us silent because it defies language.  Could words have articulated the darkness that wrested control from Ada…

The Knockdown Question

For many of us - especially after looking at the printed cover of The New York Times which carries the names and ages of Friday's victims - no words begin to express the anguish, anger, and confusion we feel. This is not to say we haven't tried: already, the pundits are questioning whether this will be the event that catalyzes stricter gun-control laws and 'experts' are speculating as to the root causes of this young man's actions.

We turn, apparently instinctively, to any resource we can find in a frantic search for answers. We crave reasons, proofs, formulas,

Sadly, I don't think there is any single answer or proof. Right now, there's a great void of silence punctuated by angry shouts to the heavens and tears. Many tears.

The Australian poet Les Murray wrote a brilliant poem that I'd like to share:
Why does God not spare the innocent?

The answer to that is not in
the same world as the question
so you would shrink from me
in terror if I could answer it.  I…

New Tin Whistle Blog

After six years, I'm starting to re-do some of the Tin Whistle videos. To help organize my own thinking, I'm using the following Blog to organize the lessons:

Beginner Tin Whistle Lessons
We'll see how this goes. I have a few lessons up already - including sheet music - and two of them are of Christmas carols!

Two Lords?

December 9th, 2012 - 2nd Sunday of Advent (Luke 3:1-6)
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,and his brother Philip tetrarch of the regionof Ituraea and Trachonitis,and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:A voice of one crying out in the desert:"Prepare the way of the Lord,make straight his paths.Every valley shall be filledand every mountain and hill shall be made low.The winding roads shall be made straight,and the rough ways made smooth,and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." I want only to make a single observation about today's reading. The second-half of the passage is familiar to us…

Irresponsible Journalism

Much to my dismay, I awoke this morning to find an article by Mick McCabe entitled "It's Idiotic for U of D Jesuit to Exit the Catholic League." I would suggest reading it only to the extent that it is a good example of the slash-and-burn, irresponsible reporting that masquerades as journalism today. My response to his piece appears on the site but I include it below for those interested:  McCabe's piece reminds me of an Irish story of the parson who asks one of the congregation, "So, Joseph, have you stopped beating your wife yet?" It's a humorous chestnut in that, regardless of how Joseph answers, he's implicated in doing something wrong: either he has ceased spousal abuse or it's still continuing. The moral: there's no right answer.It appears, by his conclusion, McCabe has a bit of the parson in him. He presumes to have the truth and it matters little what the school might say: it will be a lie.As a Jesuit, former teacher at U of D Jesuit…

Dear Abba, Part II

I had to laugh last evening when I opened my email and found another "Dear Abba" letter, this time from a parent. Without posting her original note, let me give you the substance:
My son's grades have dropped a lot this year and he's always really grouchy in the morning. I don't think he's sleeping at night. Do you think this is just a phase he is going through? Do you think he could be depressed?  I happened to be at my desk when the email popped up, so I shot back a \ short response:
Have there been changes to his routine?  Her reply: We bought him his own computer that he keeps in his room. But we told him that he's not allowed to use it past 10:00 pm.  Well, let me take a crazy guess: I doubt the kid is suffering from depression. If the first two years of high school found him well-rested and getting his homework and studying done and then, with the introduction of the computer into his room, the grades drop and he's nearly narcoleptic at the tab…

We'll Get What We Are

This morning I finished reading what may be one of the more important books I've ever read. Co-authored by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers is a work of sociology intending to understand better, as the title suggests, the spiritual lives of adolescents. Before I continue, let me say simply this: if you are a parent, or someone who works with teenagers, you must buy this book. My only regret about reading this book is that I didn't read it before I started teaching high school.

Let me give a quick layout of the book:
Chapter 1 uses the stories of two Baptist teens to establish some of the book's main themes: American teens are religiously complicated; for many teens, religion and spirituality are very important in their lives; few teens are engaged in what many of us believe about them, namely, that they are "spiritual but not religious" or "spiritually seeking"'; Am…

Did the Pope Just Kill Christmas??

Not quite. As is my custom, I glanced at CNN's website this morning and saw the headline "Pope's Book on Jesus Challenges Christmas Traditions" and, of course, had to read it. In a rare move, I even watched the video at the top (I'm generally a read-the-text guy).

Now, before you start packing up the Creche scene that has been out since Halloween or delete the Christmas music from your play list, it bears reminding: the Holy Father is not seeking to destroy Christmas. Indeed, there is nothing in the CNN story that hasn't been known before by anyone who has done any contemporary Bible study. A few things:

It is quite unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th. How unlikely? Well, I'd reckon a 1/365 chance. Scour the Bible as you wish, but there's no fixed date for his birth. Near as I can tell, it's not the date of birth but, rather, the fact that he was born that interested the authors. What is vital is that Jesus was born, not the date of his b…

200 Years Behind?

On August 31st, the Roman Catholic Church mourned the passing of Cardinal Carlo Martini, a Jesuit Biblical scholar and former Archbishop of Milan. Several weeks before his death, he granted an interview with the caveat that its contents not be released until after his death. On September 1st, the interview appeared in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and quickly became seen as something of his "spiritual testament." It is a short piece and the English translation can be found by visiting this link; I high suggest reading it. 
I'm struck by the imagery describing the situation of the Church as "embers hidden under ashes." As Martini looked out at the Church, he saw that "our churches are big" and our "religious houses are empty." The emptiness of our churches does not seem to stave either the growth of the Church's bureaucracy or the "pompous" appearance of its rites and vestments. As depicted in the media, American an…

An Update and an Oireachtas Prayer

I beg the indulgence of readers for the rather long pause in blogging action. Late in the evening of November 10th, I learned that a former student had taken his own life. The news reached his classmates on Sunday morning and, while I was playing a feis in Chicago, I seized every break I could to respond to the texts sent by his classmates, to answer phone calls, or just to pray quietly for the young man's peace and for consolation for his family.

The week that followed found me on a hastily booked flight back to Detroit (thank the Lord for reward mileage) where I attended the wake and the funeral. It was not exactly the homecoming I would have liked, but I'm glad that I had an opportunity to be present to the family and to lend an ear to students as they grieved. Since my return to Boston on Saturday, I've found myself to be possessed of little energy and I'm particularly grateful for the holiday weekend and hope to use these days for refreshment.

It seems strange to…

College Application Advice for the Control-F Generation

One of my former students, a member of the Control-F generation, wrote me last week asking advice about applying to college. He's the sort of kid many would regard as being a great "whole package" applicant: smart, good test scores, committed to service, a multiple-sport athlete, high regard by teachers, good sense of humor, and an all-around nice guy. In my limited experience with high school students, he stands out as one of the better I've encountered and I'm sure he'll have no trouble gaining entry to the college that is right for him.

He headed his note "Advice" and began with, "Dear Abba." I don't know if he intended the allusion to the Dear Abby advice columns, but it did make me laugh. Since his question did arise from a genuine concern, especially one that affects many families this year, I thought I'd offer my thoughts on two things: (1) the teacher letter of recommendation and (2) the student's own personal statement…

My New Nemeses

Well, I'm glad to report that I've found my new rivals here in Boston: Wild Turkeys. These accursed creatures seem to stalk me, as I see them almost daily on my way to class. Some days, they're standing on the cars in our parking lot; other days, they are blocking the sidewalk. Last week they stopped traffic as they strutted across the road...I watched the cars slow down and stop as they arrogantly took their time. Just yesterday, one of them was waiting in ambush and, when I opened the door to go out, it attempted to come into the house.
The one in the foreground appears to be the leader. I think he remembers me in particular...I know I'd remember the person who charged at me with a rake! It may sound irrational, but I have a feeling that this will be a great class of the wills. When I was a novice I did battle with peacocks. Now, as a theologian, I take on the turkeys.

Life Interrupted

I am grateful that there has been a distinct lack of religious rationalization of Hurricane Sandy. That is, I haven't heard of any prominent religious leaders attempting to 'make sense' of the destruction and loss of life by portraying the devastation as "God's will" or "retribution for sin." In the Northeast, it seems, there is just a quiet numbness as people look out to see what the storm has wrought, sort out how it has interrupted their lives, and begin to pick up the pieces...if there are any pieces to pick up.

I use the word interruption deliberately. We have all had the experience of being deep in conversation when something - a phone call, a whining child, a stranger - intrudes upon the moment. When the issue is addressed and the two parties try to pick up where they left off, it is usually with the line, "Now, where were we?" Yet, we know, that in the wake of an interruption the conversation never resumes in quite the same way.


I Can't Believe...

Several weeks ago, I was out to dinner with a group of friends, many of whom are involved either in Irish music or dancing. A few bottles of wine into the evening, as it so often happens, one of the group announced from across the table brought up the topic of religion. Actually, he didn't so much 'bring up' the topic as he did launch into a monologue about how he used to go to Church but now, because the bishops dared to tell him how to vote, he would never go back into the Church again. "I simply can't believe in the Catholic Church any longer," he said, staring at me.

Now, here's the thing. If "Believing in the Church" is translated into "Believing in the Bishops," then I stand with my friend. I wholly believe in the episcopacy and I acknowledge the importance of apostolic succession. I even think it appropriate to the Bishop qua Shepherd and qua Teacher that the faithful be instructed in all topics pertinent to adequate conscience…

33rd Birthday and The Feast of the North American Martyrs

I'm very fortunate to celebrate on the same day the United States observes the "Feast of the North American Martyrs." On this day, we celebrate the witness of Saint John De Brebeuf, Saint Isaac Jogues, and their companions. For these men, death did not bring about their martyrdom. It was the consequence of their lives lived as witnesses to the Gospel. 
In 1979, I had four great-grandparents and four grandparents. Today, only my Grandma Hagan is alive. I'm blessed that my godparents - Jack Duns and Kelly King - are still alive, as is my Confirmation Jack Barret. Nevertheless, it's hard not to think back and miss those people who have passed from my life as I celebrate it's start. Likewise is it hard not to think upon the wonderful people who have entered my life, who have played a role in it, who have helped to make me who I am today. 
I am a fortunate man. I have a family I love very much - although my sister Hagan apparently is afraid of me! (and this for t…

On Politics

For quite some time, I have had mixed feelings about weighing in or writing on the topic of  politics. "Your realm," a friend once told me, "is to be priestly, not political." I reckon I've bought into this, preferring to pray quietly and to remain silent on many of the issues that have arisen during this election season.

It is not as though my silence is without good reason. For were I to say that I intended to vote for Mitt Romney, there would be cries that I hate the poor; to suggest a vote for Obama would raise cries that I hated the unborn. In particular, I have been dismayed and horrified by the caustic and hateful comments directed toward Catholic bloggers who voice, in any way, support for Obama. Civil discourse seems, yet again, to have been thrown out the window. Hell, the two candidates can't even engage in a civil debate! Is it a wonder why a Jesuit scholastic would prefer to remain silent?
But can I, in conscience, stay silent? Am I so wholly r…

A Fitting Tribute

The Boston Irish community remains in mourning at the passing of a local legend, Mr. Larry Reynolds. I did not know Mr. Reynolds personally but I wish I had. By all accounts, he was a true character. Maybe it is only in Boston that a funeral for an Irish fiddle player could make the cover of the paper's Metro section. Nevertheless, I encourage you to read the fitting tribute to his life. If ever one wanted to see my image of heaven, it's the picture of all the musicians gathered in the Church...each one raising his or her instrument to play a song from the heart in joyful praise for another's life well life.

Larry Reynolds, Fiddler of Local Renown,  is Mourned

Op-Ed Over at the New York Times

So What?

If there has been a gift in having been a high school teacher, it is a sensitivity to the “So What?” dimension of every lesson. One can prepare the greatest of lessons but unless he is ready to account for the “So What?” factor, the meaning is lost. For good or for ill, students expect you as a teacher to give a hint as to how the material you are teaching relates to real life.
It is with the “So What?” glasses on that I read the letter Archbishop Nienstedt wrote to a mother in response to question about accepting her gay son. The mother, was responding to the Archbishop’s letter appearing on April 28, 2010, in The Star Tribune. This week, a fellow blogger posted a copy of the Archbishop's response to the mother

Now, let me ask: how this helpful to a mother who has taken the time to write a letter to her bishop asking for guidance? If one reads the letter and asks, “So What?” can it be claimed that any new ground has been covered, that any new insight has been gained? How has …