Showing posts from August, 2012

Troubling Comments

A number of years ago, when I was discerning whether to enter the Society of Jesus, I had lunch with a Jesuit mentor. Over our meal, he shared that a mutual friend of ours was also in discernment, although he was considering joining Father Benedict Groeschel's Friars of the Renewal. Never one to miss an opportunity to un-sheath his rapier wit, Father feigned indignation and exclaimed, "Why would you want to join a group founded by a man who can't cross the street? Left, Right, Left Again -- how hard is that? At least it took a cannon ball to bring down our founder!" Later that afternoon, as we celebrated the Eucharist, Father prayed both for Father Groeschel's health and the flourishing of his congregation.

Eight years later, the echoes of his near-fatal car accident may be detected in Groeschel's own words. In an interview now removed from the internet, Father Groeschel makes some disturbing claims concerning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy:


...and a curtain is raised

I'm now (relatively) settled into my new room at the Faber Jesuit Community here in Brighton, MA. My room is a bit smaller than my previous room in Detroit, although I do have my own bathroom and shower -- a huge plus! This is, in fact, the first time in my Jesuit life (8 years as of August 21st) that I've had my own bathroom. It's sort of nice being able to leave my shampoo and soap in the shower each day.

It only took me about 10 hours to drive from Cleveland to Boston. I stopped three times for gas and for food and I have very little traffic along the way. All in all, it was an enjoyable drive as my rental car had XFM radio and spent the day catching up on the political news I'd missed while in Austria all summer.

Without question, there is a great part of me that is sad not to be in Detroit. That said, I drove away last Monday with the sense that the time had come for me to continue preparing for ordination. If my regency is any indication of how quickly time can p…

So the lights go out...

As I type this, I realize that it'll probably be my last post from Detroit. Three years have gone by quickly. How does one encapsulate his sentiment at the end of such an experience? It's impossible to put it into words. My room is packed. Boxes are stacked high. The car that will take me to Boston has been rented. I survey my room and recall with ease the countless experiences I have had these last years...and I am filled with gratitude. A prayer shared by the provincial of the Wisconsin province expresses my feelings as I close the blinds, turn out the lights, and close the door one last time to JR 211 (my room):

For all that has been, I say: Thank You. For all that is yet to come, I say: Yes. 

Could a major life transition be complete without music? Let's round out regency with a song I think appropriate to my experience:

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Julia Child

Several years ago, when I was still a student at Fordham University, I purchased Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Several weeks after its arrival, I invited a small group of intrepid diners over for dinner. I can't remember the exact menu from that night, but I do recall finishing with Mousseline Au Chocolat. In the years that have elapsed, I've experienced few feelings as exhilarating as watching that meal take shape - guided by Child's clear prose - and the look of delight on my guests' faces as they were served.

Commemorated in numerous ways, including a fine tribute from Chef Jacques Pépin in yesterday's New York Times, Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday. Long before I knew how to truss a chicken and years before I could muster the courage to adopt her rallying cry, "If you're afraid of butter, use cream!" I simply enjoyed watching her cook. I appreciated those lazy afternoons when I'd…

Violence and Contagion: "We were bored"

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports today about a group of six young teenagers who "attacked and robbed" a man simply because they were bored. The boys, ages 13 and 14, face felony charges of aggravated rioting and felonious assault, North COllege Hill police said today.
The sixth and final suspect was arrested Wednesday.
When police rounded most of the teens up, took them back to the police station and questioned them, they said they attacked the victim, identified as Pat Mahaney, because "they were just bored and were looking for something to do," the report states.
They also admitted he had done nothing to provoke being kicked and punched repeatedly in the face while he was helpless on the ground.  One could take this as a rare one-off event, a freak moment of peculiar violence. Yet, if you think about it, there's something deeply troubling about this. Being bored can lead to a host of activities: a pick-up game of baseball, riding bikes, some form of video game t…

Blurring Technology and Teaching

Nearly six years ago, I began offering a free online course teaching interested persons how to play the Irish tin whistle. I conceived of putting the lessons on YouTube while a student at Fordham. Given only an hour a week with a large number of students, I utilized YouTube as a resource. I could record a short video, upload it for, and have my students watch them from home.

Little did I know that the videos would have a much greater reach than my little class. 102 videos and ~4,000,000 views later, I continue to upload tutorials. Over the last five years:

69.2% of my audience is male20.7% are men between the ages of 45-5429.6% are men under the age of 349.6% are women between the ages of 45-5414.2% are women under the age of 3422.5% are between the ages of 55-646,721 people have subscribed to the YouTube ChannelThe top ten countries in order of video popularity: USA, UK, Germany, Ireland, France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia On average, I moderate anywhere between 20-…

Retribution and Unforgiveness

Mike Hayes, over on Googling God, has posted the video below. Having been out of the country and only fleetingly aware of the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A, it took a few moments to get the full gist of the situation. If you're so inclined, watch the video:

It's hard to expunge two voices from my head: the woman's incessant "Hateful Bigot" chant and the man's voice taunting the priest to "Go Rape and Altar Boy." It is fascinating to watch as the crowd gathers around Father O'Reilly - almost as white blood cells would gather around an invading pathogen - in order to expel him from their midst.

To be sure, one can question Father O'Reilly's prudence. I don't know that it was the wisest, or most pastorally effective, approach to wade into the midst of the protestors. My question to him would have been, "What is your end goal in all of this? Is this course really the best path to follow?"

As I watched, I recall something…

To Fall Silent

Speaking a lot about something does not in the least guarantee that understanding is thus furthered. On the contrary, talking at great length about something covers things over and brings what is understood into an illusory clarity, that is, the unintelligibility of the trivial....Authentic silence is possible only in genuine discourse.  ~Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, s. 34 
On account of being a total nerd and having 7.5 hours to kill on a trans-Atlantic flight yesterday, I was reading through Joan Stambaugh's revised translation of Martin Heidegger's Being and Time when my eye caught this passage.

There is a tendency to believe that, in order to pray, one must get the words right, as though prayer were some type of magical formula. "If I just get the words right," the thinking seems to go, "then I've really prayed."

Now, I'm not one to disparage formulaic prayer -- I use it, too. Indeed, the walk from the Jesuitenkolleg to class each day was …

The End of Catholic Ireland?

Many years ago, prior to my departure for a trip to Ireland, I received a handwritten note from my Great Aunt Sissy telling me to enjoy my time in the "Land of Saints and Scholars." Sadly, a description that may have been apt 20 years ago seems today to be obsolete. The Guardian carried yesterday a story entitled "The End of Catholic Ireland." It is well worth a read.

Mary Kenny, the author, writes:
...what is obvious anecdotally: that a substantial number of Irish people have ditched the religion of their ancestors because they think it no longer applies in an age of scientific rationality; because they rebuff "control" by ecclesiastics; because they are disgusted by the clerical scandals – indeed, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is himself disgusted by what he has had to read in the archives; or because sex, drugs and accumulating electronic gadgets are more "relevant" to modern life than "God and Mary, His Mother", as the trad…

Jesus says: "Yeah? Well, Yo Mama is So..."

Today's Gospel reading happens to be one of my favorites: it's the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman from Tyre and Sidon. As a senior at Canisius College, I wrote my final paper on this very passage (well, Mark 7:24-31 // Matthew 15: 21-28). As a teacher, it's a great one to teach to sophomores because, in my humble estimation, it's the only time Jesus ever loses an argument in scripture. 
Let's go at this from an angle effective with sophomore boys. Have you ever seen a "Yo Mamma" fight? Take this as an example:
"Yo mama so ugly she looks like she fell off the ugly tree and hit ever branch on the way down."
"Yeah? Well, Yo mama so ugly that not even goldfish crackers smile back."
"Oh Hell No! Yo mama so ugly when she joined an ugly contest, they said "Sorry, no professionals."   So, who wins this little battle of wits? Well, the person who can deploy the most devestating "Yo Mama" such as to render…


Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. Perhaps it is fitting that weeks after the murderous spree in Colorado, days after the knife attack leaving nine people dead in China, and hours after the assault at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, that we hear the final words of the Second Reading:
You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. It does seem that, as a human family, we have experienced the dark side of humanity. On a large level we have seen heros fall, corporate greed and dishonesty, the appalling failure of religious and educational institutions to protect the wellbeing of children, and these last few weeks the callous disregard for human life we (easily) take for granted has now been brought into our homes by these terrible assaults. Only a fool, or an intentionally ignorant person, could keep himself from wondering, "What is going on here? Just what is wrong with …

Deciphering Creation

In a 2007 General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI meditates with John Chrysostom on the Book of Genesis. Of creation, he writes: ..."Es ist ein großes Gut" sagt Chrysostomus, "zu erkennen was das Geschöpf ist under was der Schopfer."...Und so wird Gott zum Gott der Herablassung, der dem gefallenen und fremden Menschen einen Brief schickt, die Heilige Schrift, so dass Schöpfung und Schrift sich ergänzend vervollständigen. Im Lichte der Schrift, des Briefes, den Gott uns gegeben hat, können wir die Schöpfung entschlusseln.  Or, now that I've shown off that I can read some German,
"It is a great Good," says Chrysostum, "to recognize what is the creature and what is the Creator."  Thus God is the God of Indulgence, who sends to the estranged a letter  - the Holy Scriptures - so that Creation and Scripture may complete one another. In the light of the Scriptures, the letter God has given to us, can we decipher creation.  If you read today's Gosp…

Abba's Guide to College

As I prepare to retire my sobriquet of Abba Duns, I did have to send one final email out to some former students to give them my "guide" to beginning college studies. If it interests you, feel free to read below:

Hi Guys,
I hope you're all enjoying what, as I look at the calendar, seem to be the waning days of summer vacation. Most of you will be reporting to college in just about three weeks. Make the most of your time with your family these weeks and do your best to prepare for the adventures of college.
It is hard to let the teacher part of me go, so please indulge me once more as I offer a few words of advice. Do as you will with it, although remember that before I was "Abba" Duns I once found some degree of respectability as a college instructor. What I hand on to you is simply a collection of observations that I hope prove helpful to you. 1. Books: you need them. DO NOT BUY AT THE BOOKSTORE. You will only succeed in being financially pl…

My Ode to the American Tourist

My father likes to remind me that, despite my best efforts to eradicate it, there is a vein of misanthropy running deep within me. Over the years of Jesuit formation, I'm tempted to believe that I have eradicated this: surely, happily teaching in a high school cultivates a sense of loving people even when they are most unlovable. Indeed, there have been times when I feel on the verge of an experience akin to one described by Thomas Merton who famously writes:
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnute, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.  Such longing may be present in quiet moments, in the sweet promise of the new-dawned day or while reflecting at the day's end. I really want to love everyone, to feel a cosmic oneness with my sisters and brothers.

That is, of course, until I…