Showing posts from July, 2012

Happy Feast of Saint Ignatius: Words from Nadal

Every now and again, I hear that, "The Society of Jesus has lost its way." They mock our focus on a "Faith that does Justice" and they offer embittered wishes that the Society would go back to its old ways, the ways of the good old days...whatever those were.

Perhaps it is true that in the 1940's and 1950's, the nostalgic "Golden Era" of American Catholicism, that there was little emphasis on justice.  (Then again, if you read the work of Father Mark Massa, SJ you'll realize that things weren't so Golden after all). The lack of emphasis on the human body, however, should be seen as an anomaly and not the normal: the original impulse of the Society of Jesus addressed the needs both of the soul and the body (Ignatius did, after all, found a house for prostitutes and begged money for to feed the hungry).

Two years ago, Father Walter Farrell, SJ delivered a profound homily on the originating impulse behind the founding of the Society. As he reco…

Feeding of the 5,000

As many of my readers know, I really enjoying cooking. Over the course of my studies at Fordham, it became one of my great joys to host dinner gatherings for some of the younger faculty. For me, these were two-day affairs: on Friday, I would trek into Manhattan to go shopping and, on Saturday, I'd spend the day preparing the meal. Almost without fail, hours before the meal, the guest list would begin to expand rapidly: what had started as a dinner for eight would become dinner for twelve, or fourteen, or sixteen. The first few times this happened, I'd begin to panic: surely, I hadn't prepared enough food to feed that many. Yet, it never seemed that anyone ever went away hungry. There was always just enough.

On one level, tomorrow's Mass Readings play on the theme of making more out of less. I suspect anyone who has lived with teenagers knows something of the dilemma facing the man from Baal-shalishah and the Apostles: how can we make a little go a long way? How do we …

How to Be an Atheist: Part V

The final installment of my now month-long series on how to be an atheist. Please read and comment if you are so moved!

How to Be and Atheist, Part V

Fallen Idol

I read with great interest a short piece appearing on a new blog created by one of my former students, Dylan Demkowicz. His site, straightforwardly named Dylan's Den, is in its very early stages of growth. Entering into his senior year of high school, I am glad to see Dylan trying to put himself out there and to "claim his own voice" in conversations surrounding sports.

What struck me about Dylan's post is his sensitivity to the symbolism of a stature erected in Paterno's honor. There are many who have voiced outrage at the statue's removal, claiming that this singular act - an act that stretched over the course of many years - does not annihilate his success at Penn State. This is, to a degree, true. Yet it is also true that a statue had been erected to a man who did not act, who sinned by omission, who failed by doing nothing. It is precisely this doing nothing that is so disturbing...and so much of an indictment of each of us. How often have we walked by …

Tin Whistle Lesson: Carraroe Jig


How to Be an Atheist: Part IV

Part IV of my five-part series entitled "How to Be an Atheist" can be read over on The Jesuit Post. I'd love it if people left some comments on the site as, very often, the best philosophy/theology is done as a response to someone's living question.

If you have a few moments, you can think with me (and Thomas Aquinas) about just what kind of demonstration the (in)famous Five Ways actually is. I tried to make the piece as accessible as possible for popular consumption and hope readers enjoy it.

How to Be an Atheist: Holes in the Map

Woe to the Shepherds!

There is a great word - one of those words people trot out on occasion to show how clever they are - that captures well the relationship between the first reading and the Gospel: chiaroscuro. An Italian word meaning "light-dark," chiaroscuro describes the interplay between light and shadow in art. An interesting example of chiaroscuro can be glimpsed in Artemisia's "Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes" (c. 1625). 
After severing the head of Holofernes, the Judith and Abra prepare to depart the slain leader's tent. Notice the shadow cast by the left hand, how it seems to add a sense of urgency to the scene. Holofernes's murder completed, they must now steal away under the cover of darkness and return to their besieged town. Morning's light will reveal to Holofernes's troops a ghastly sight: the head of their former leader on display from the walls of the town.
Today's Mass readings have a similar play of light-and-darkness…

Salzburg 2012



In addition to reading Harry Potter in German, I also acquired a copy of Pope Benedict XVI's Licht der Welt: Der Papst, die Kirche, und die Zeichen der Zeit. (Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and the Signs of the Times)

The Holy Father is a remarkably gifted communicator and his German is very clear. Thus, it wasn't a burden to spend the better part of today reading his responses to interviewer Peter Seewald's questions. Over and over again, I was struck by the depth of the Pope's spiritual life, his love of the Church and humanity, and his commitment to sharing Christian joy with an increasingly cynical world. Following up on what I wrote the other day about remaining in the Catholic Church, I would like to share the following quote:
Der heilige Augustinus hat schon zu seiner Zeit gesagt: Es sind viele draußen, die drinnen zu sein scheinen; und es sind viele drinnen, die draußen zu sein scheinen.  Saint Augustine said in his day: There are many outside, who …

Finding the Right Words

Acting upon my instructor's suggestion, I purchased a copy of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen. Yes, that's right, I'm reading it in German. It's proved a helpful, if frustrating, exercise: I must read slowly, looking at each word, trying to sound it out and uncover its meaning. On some pages, it seems as though I need to look up every other word. This makes my progress tremendously slow and can, at times, be extremely annoying. 
Three hours and fifteen pages later (of a book I could easily polish off, in English, in a few hours), I rushed down to celebrate the Eucharist with members of the Jesuit community. In the Gospel, Jesus praises God:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the children."
This summer, I am barely a child in a new language. There's much that I want to say, things I try to understand, but it se…

My Trip to Bergisel & Some Innsbruck Photos


Tin Whistle Tutorial - My Darling Asleep


Believing in the Church?

This morning, I received an email from a great young guy with whom I have had several conversations about joining the Jesuits. He is faithful, smart, funny, and seems to be motivated wholly by a desire to serve Christ and His Church.

So why isn't he a Jesuit? He writes: In fact my love for the Society and my passion to serve Christ still burns deeply. Still, there are issues within the Church which make it hard to wholly commit to the vocation...Sometimes I feel as if I'm starting from scratch, constantly needing to reaffirm my faith in the Church and all its possibilities (and challenges). His sentiments, I suspect, are not foreign to many people. How many of us want to believe in the Church, want to be faithful, but feel beaten down and discouraged? How many of us continue to bristle at the lack of accountability assumed by bishops for sex abuse, for a lack of financial transparency, for an apparent inability to see that the politics of the Catholic Church need not align wit…

The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

The Gospel reading for July 12th contains what I take to be the fundamental 'style' of anyone willing to live up to one's Christian baptism:
As you go, make this proclamation:  "The Kingdom of heaven is at hand."  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
I call this the 'style' at the risk of being misunderstood: I'm not saying that Christianity is reducible to a bunch of do-gooders. Were this all it took, one could simply join the Fraternal Order of the Elks or one's local Rotary Club!
By 'style' I simply mean that there is a way in which one is a Christian in this world. Each of us has been marked by the waters of baptism, waters that ran over our heads many years ago, waters that - hopefully - have worked slowly and silently over the years to carve deep caverns within our hearts, caverns yearning to be filled with acts of love. We don't 'c…

A Chilling Prophesy

The ascent of der Nockspitzer on Saturday gave me a lot of time to think - climbing along relatively narrow paths does not make for easy conversation.

On Friday, the first reading concluded with a chilling line from the Prophet Amos. The fate of those who trample upon the poor and ignore the plight of the needy:
Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east In search of the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. I cannot help but to wonder if today we, as a society, are dwelling amidst this ancient prophesy.

Prophets are frequently misunderstood because we think they tell the future. In the Scriptures, the prophet has a two-fold function: Critiquing the current order for having fallen away from being God's people and Re-Imagining the current order and prompting women and men to get back into l…

My Climb to the Summit of the Nockspitze


How to be an Atheist, III

The Jesuit Post has just released the third in my five-letter series entitled "How to be an Atheist."

How to Be an Atheist: Thinking Backwards

An Update from Austria

I am now immersed in the first week of a six-week course in intensive German here in Innsbruck, Austria. I've taken courses in reading German but have never tried to speak it. Much of my vocabulary is rusty - which I anticipated - but I will admit that trying to eat dinner with a bunch of German-speaking Jesuits is frustrating. An extrovert, I find myself totally unable to enter into dinner conversation.

I guess learning a language is like weaving an ever-growing web that 'catches' more and more of what is said around you. It's humbling to go from being a native English speaker with a rather wide 'web' to being a student of German where my operative vocabulary is easily less than that held by toddler.

Not being readily able to say anything makes me really self-conscious when people ask me simple questions. Invariably I bungle the words, or don't answer right, and I get angry at myself for not having a command of the language. Mary, the cook at the U of D J…