Showing posts from April, 2012

Who are you to tell my daughter how to dress?

Last week, the elegant Roostertail - where U of D Jesuit hosts its prom - made the news when it released its 2012 Prom Dress Code. A first for this institution, the owner of the establishment decided that it was time for someone to help students distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate attire. Roostertail 2012 Prom Dress Code: 1. A young lady’s hemline should be no shorter than 6” above the knees.
2. Dresses may be backless, as long as they are not cut below the waist line.
3. No midriff-bearing cutouts.
4. Slits cannot go further than 6” above the knee.
5. No plunging neck lines, modest cleavage is OK.
6. Ladies, if you plan to remove your shoes, bring flats.
7. Gentlemen are not to remove, unbutton, or untuck their shirt.
8. Gentlemen must keep their shoes on.A parent or guardian is only allowed to come to the Roostertail in case of emergency. Parents and guardians must also abide by the Dress Code. Example: no jeans, shorts, flip-flops, cut offs, halter tops, etc.  At no t…

The Good Shepherd

Teaching high school boys, particularly sophomores, is seldom easy. Frequently restive and fidgety, one must move relatively quickly to hold their attention when covering what they might regard as less-than-interesting material. I have always tried my best to "spice up" the class, making connections between theology and philosophy/sociology/psychology/etc., but it can be a struggle.

During my first semester of teaching, when discussing today's Gospel Reading where we find the lovely, if not often kitschy, image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. As you can see from the attached picture, Jesus is often depicted as a cross between Little Bo Peep and Charlton Heston. He is white, carries his little staff, and the sheep are clean and obedient.

What I wanted to impress upon the students was the notion that "Good Shepherd" in Jesus' day would have been an oxymoron. Shepherds were akin to brigands, were regarded with suspicion, and the nature of their job made them fre…

Mother/Son Communion Breakfast 2012

Some of the mothers encouraged me to post my talk to my blog. I know that it is long, so I'm going to post it in such a way that you have to click the "read more" to get to it. This was given on April 22nd, 2012, at the Detroit Golf Club for the Moms of Seniors graduating from U of D Jesuit. We had a great attendance at the event and I want to congratulate Dr. Deb Wolfe on a lovely day. I also wish to thank her for extending the invitation to speak on such a wonderful occasion as we celebrate what Father Kiser calls the "Long Goodbye" preparing to send our graduating seniors off to college.

Recovery Period

I'm ashamed that, after a good spate of frequent updates, I've fallen silent for nearly a week. Last Monday, we returned from Spring Break and we kicked off the final week of the Student Senate Election. It was a crazy four days of preparing for the election and then, after the event on Friday, I had to run and chaperone a dance...with quite possibly the craziest mother I have ever met showing up at the end of the event.

I managed to have dinner with some friends on Saturday, but only after preparing two different talks I had to deliver on Sunday. So yesterday I gave two talks and graded a bunch of papers. By 11:00 last night, when I shut off the light, it amazed me that I had just had a weekend - it flew by!

So right now, I'm recovering from the craziness of the last ten days. I need to catch up on some sleep and get back on track with teaching. Please be patient - I'll be recharged in a few days!

Credimus! (In 140-characters or less)

A reader - a brilliant and incisive one at that - who articulates her struggles with the Church reached out to me with, what I consider, a really brilliant idea.

She asks: "People live in 120 character tweets - what can the Church 'tweet' about our core beliefs?" This would be a means, she continues, "to make inroads to Catholics and people who might want to be Catholics."

If you approached an average person on the street, what would she say about Catholicism today? "The Catholic Church is against birth control, prohibits abortion, is against gay marriage, won't ordain women, and covered up the sexual abuse of minors." This may be overly cynical but, I fear, it's probably not far from the truth. The Catholic Church certainly seems more identifiable by what it is against than what it is for.

I don't know how many might be interested in this, but I'm willing to give it a shot. What if we were to complete the following phrases in 140…

What the numbers do not tell us

There is a piece in today's Wall Street Journal written by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White entitled "Traditional Catholicism is Winning." Almost eight years into religious life, I think their final paragraph captures well the reasons I decided not to pursue medical school, or law school, and entered into the service of the Church in 2004, a mere two years after the disastrous revelations of sexual abuse that made national headlines in 2002. The young women and men offering themselves as candidates to religious life and the priesthood:
...are attracted to the philosophy, the art, the literature and the theology that make Catholicism countercultural. They are drawn to the beauty of the liturgy and the church's commitment to the dignity of the individual. They want to be contributors to that commitment—alongside faithful and courageous bishops who ask them to make sacrifices. It is time for Catholics to celebrate their arrival.  I think this is generally spot-on. …

In the breaking of the bread

Today's Gospel's scene, so beautifully depicted by Rembrandt, recalls two disciples' journey on the road to Emmaus. In the wake of Jesus' horrific execution, the disciples quickly disbanded. Cleopas and his companion are walking, dejected, when they are approached by a stranger who seems oblivious to the events that had taken place. Incredulous at first, they recount the days' events to the stranger who, certainly to their amazement, managed to explain what had actually taken place. Having heard his re-framing of the story, the disciples become aware of the dusk and invite the stranger stranger to join them for table fellowship. When the stranger breaks the bread, their eyes are opened and they finally recognize the one with whom they have been chatting: it is the Risen Christ.

One way of looking at this passage is as the confrontation between two types of stories. The disciples' version of the story is told against a horizon of death and and defeat and confusi…

Non Nisi Te

It is said that, while praying before a crucifix, Saint Thomas Aquinas was addressed by God. "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward will you have?" The response Thomas offers is stunning in its simplicity: non nisi te, Domini...None other than You, Lord.

I wrote last night of an image taken from my childhood prayer. I would like, tonight, to share an experience to which I have returned in my memory many times over the years. I'm somewhat reluctant because it might raise for readers the sense that I am deceitful, attention-seeking, or insane. Yet, I feel able to share this with readers with the hope that it is helpful to them.

So here we go.

Like many Catholic kids, I used to like to play Church. I distinctly remember being around seven years of age and playing Church in the backyard of our house, using a white-topped, green-legged Little Tykes table as an altar and Ritz crackers for hosts. At some point, I went into the the house and back to bathroom. It was a…


There is something about today's Gospel that I love.  In the first section, we hear that Mary & Mary meet Jesus on the road and he charges them with a task: tell the other disciples to go to Galilee where they will see him. The second section of the passage paints a strikingly different picture: some of the guards report back about the strange events that had happened and, in return for their agreeing to tell another version of the story, they are paid a sum of money.

The hinge of the story, so to speak, is the very axis around which the Christian life rotates: the Resurrection. Both the chief priests and the two women recognize the story and each must respond somehow. Neither can afford a stance of indifference. The women bear the the message to the disciples whereas the guards sell out the truth they have witnessed for a sum of money. In today's Gospel, we witness the dilemma of discipleship: will we tell the story of the Risen Christ or will we let our silence be purcha…

A Disney Easter

As I settled into bed last night, consoled and joyful at the beauty of the Vigil Mass, it occurred to me that what I most value in a homily is the preacher's understanding of a question that rests upon my heart. The most meaningful homily, in my experience, is the one that elevates a question that has been burning within me and addresses it in a clear and moving manner.

This got me to thinking about how I would explain Easter to someone who asked about it. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I began to wonder how I'd explain it to my niece Emma who will turn five in August. Emma knows a lot of things: she knows about Dora, how to count in English and Spanish, her colors, her shapes, and she is starting to read. On any given day she is a princess and an explorer, a dancer and a cook. She loves Disney movies and believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and she knows nothing of the United States Tax Code. Her life is, indeed, charmed.

So how do you explain the Resurrection …

Summoned by Joy

I am very proud that at tonight's Easter Vigil I will sponsor one of my students as he is received into the Roman Catholic Church. Brother Boynton will be sponsoring another student from U of D Jesuit at the same celebration. It has been a great joy and a privilege to have accompanied both of these young men during their spiritual journeys, both as a teacher and as their RCIA mentor, and I hope my readers will join their prayers with mine for their ongoing process of coming to know, to love, and to serve Jesus Christ and His Church.

The anomaly of two normal, bright, young men entering the Church is not lost on me. Many of us are born into the Church and these guys are choosing to enter into it. They are fully aware that, as Herbert McCabe once put it,
The Church is quite plainly corrupt: a cardinal selects Christmas as the occasion for supporting the murder of Vietnamese civilians; the Pope alleges that the church's teaching is not in doubt about birth control; the Congregatio…

Holy Thursday: 2012

Have you ever wondered what Jesus did when he prayed? Until today, I guess, I'd never given much thought to this. I mean, what would the Son of the Living God have to say to his Abba? The Eternal Word made Flesh, one might suppose, had said everything that ever needed to be said long before the Incarnation. 
Yet we know from the Scriptures that Jesus prayed...even to the point of sweating blood, if Luke's Gospel portrait is to believed. What did Jesus say when he prayed? 
Perhaps, at some point, he said something like this: I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to say as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me. It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will not b…

The Lighting of the Beacons

One of my favorite scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy takes place when the members of the Fellowship conspire to ignite the Beacons of Gondor. When hope seems to have flickered out, Gandalf orders Pippin to climb and light the beacon closet to Minas Tirith. To light one beacon gives a sign to those who spend their days searching the horizon, awaiting a sign that they, too, should ignite their beacon. The beacons' light stretches from mountain to mountain and, with each ignition, summons forces from across the land to aide the Fellowship in their battle against evil.

Today's Psalm from Isaiah concludes
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.  As I reflect on this reading, at the beginning of this Holy Week, I cannot help but feel moved by the above video clip and, in a way, more desirous of being a light to others.

Perhaps it is easy to succumb to the temptation that we live in a hopeless, cynical age. Countries are to…