Showing posts from March, 2013

Loving the Broken, or How the Church Becomes Real

I have a post up on The Jesuit Post entitled "Loving the Broken, or How the Church Becomes Real." It's a reflection using the story of the Velveteen Rabbit to frame reasons why many of us belong with, and remain, in the Church.

An excerpt, taken from the piece's conclusion:

Saint Ignatius, no stranger to the 16th century Church’s shortcomings, counseled the young Society of Jesus to have just such an attitude. We ought to be those, he wrote, “who love the Church, precisely because she is covered with wounds.” And this because Ignatius understood that the Church was not meant for the perfect, but for the struggling, for those who fall frequently, even scandalously.  Ignatius’s words still ring across the centuries, they still challenge: have we strength enough to dwell within the real Church, the wounded Church? Have we desire enough to cultivate a real mysticism, one that’s able to abide the real rather than trying to flee into the non-existent perfect? Have we courag…

A Self-Critical Church

I apologize for the long silence: I've been trying to (1) be prayerful in the days leading up to Holy Week and (2) work on a number of projects that are all "nearly completed" and in need of some final touch-ups.

In the 1970's, Karl Rahner observed of the Church that it, like any institution, faced many dangers: a failure to adapt itself swiftly enough to the changes in the historical situation, that it become an end in itself, that it become a merely conservative force which loses living contact with other social realities.

In short, if the Church wants to speak to contemporary culture it must first have a self-critical awareness, one able to jostle it from any laziness or indolence and prod it to keep moving along the pilgrim's path.

Although there has been much hand-wringing among some sectors of the Catholic Church, not least among various Jesuit brethren, who worry that Pope Francis is acting in a manner unbecoming of the papacy, I believe the Holy Father&#…

Papal Coat of Arms

Rocco Palmo offers the following explanation of Pople Francis's coat of arms:

Reflecting the simplicityfor which the 266th bishop of Rome has already become rather renowned, Jorge Bergoglio chose three charges for himself on his 1992 appointment as an auxiliary of Buenos Aires: the sun marked with the Holy Name of Jesus, the historic symbol of his Jesuit community; a star for the Madonna, and a "nard flower" representing St Joseph, on whose feast he'll liturgically launch his ministry as Roman pontiff. The background is blue – the color traditionally affiliated with Mary – reflecting Francis' intense devotion to her, something evidenced in Rome early on the morning after his election, but one rooted at home under the mantle of Argentina's patroness, theMadonna de Luján, a Virgin cloaked in blue.Taken from an 8th century homily on the call of St Matthew, Papa Bergoglio'smottoMiserando atque eligendo:"Lowly and yet chosen" – likewise remains the s…

Saint Patrick's Day: A few reels

Okay, just a few reels from the Eve of Saint Patrick's Day. I had a few errors....we'll attribute it to the (not first) glass of wine sitting to my right!

Performing Faith

Yesterday, I had the great fortune yesterday to play for the CCD students at a vibrant downton Boston parish. It's the type of performance, apart from playing for Irish dancers, I enjoy most. They're not a critical audience, to be sure, but they receive what is shared with joy and enthusiasm.

Being a musician, like being a Christian, is a humbling profession. That is, one must always have a self-critical awareness, acknowledging that the tradition one belongs to is always wider and freer than any single expression of it. I am an Irish musician, not Irish music; I am a Christian, not Christianity. The Church serves the mission of God's Kingdom, it is not the Kingdom.

When a musician performs from the heart, or when Christian discipleship is lived out authentically and joyfully, a possibility of transformation arises. The musician shows forth what the music is capable of, the performance opening up new horizons the musical imagination. Likewise can a Christian show, within h…

Sources of Confusion and Corruption

I invited an anonymous poster to share what s/he thought were the sources of "Confusion and Corruption" in the Society of Jesus. Rather than carry the conversation on in the comment box, I'll move the meat of it up here. 

1. Studies show students losing their faith in Jesuit universities despite or even because of Jesuit theology classes. No Jesuit University demands the canon law mandatum of theology professors (Creighton did for a while). 

First, unless we're willfully participating in an exercise of Data-Free Analysis, I would expect a link, or a footnote referencing, these studies. When I hear, "studies have shown" my stomach twinges a bit in that, unless I have recourse to look at and consider the study, it does me no good. If this study were made public, I'd relish the chance to read it. 

As to the mandatum, I can only say that at Canisius College (back in 2002) they Catholic faculty members has them. My friends who are Catholics and teach theology i…

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the Jesuits

Remember, folks, it's "Happy Saint Patrick's Day."
Patty = a very pleasant waitress at Denny's Paddy = offensive nickname for an Irish person (authority: Urban Dictionary)
We canonized Saint Patrick. The other two options are, well, less than ideal!

A Civil Society?

I have been thinking a great deal lately about what makes society - either our American society, the worldwide society of humans, or my own Society of Jesus - civil. That is, what promotes our living well together?

Recently I read an essay by Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray entitled "Civil Unity and Religious Integrity." Granted that this essay was penned almost sixty years ago, it bears sharing:
In America we have been rescued from the disaster of ideological parties. They are a disaster because where such parties exist, power becomes a special kind of prize. The struggle for power is a partisan struggle for the means whereby the opposing ideology may be destroyed. It has been remarked that only in a disintegrating society does politics become a controversy over ends; it should be simply a controversy over means to ends already agreed on with sufficient unanimity.   For those who thought me uncharitable to Mr. Weigel in my last post, perhaps my frustration with his work…

We see things not as they are...

...but as we are.

Poor George Weigel. A wry smile crept across my face as I read his piece in the National Review (page three for the juicy bits) where he muses:
I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II. I smile because Mr. Weigel succeeds in being simultaneously totally correct and totally wrong. That is, there were no champagne corks flying in our community last night - we can't afford champagne, but a lot of guys did toast our Jesuit brother, Po…

Jesuits, for Dummies

Since so many are searching for information on the Society of Jesus, here's information that may help From

What is the Society of Jesus?
The Society of Jesus is a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Jesuits are the largest male religious order in the world, with approximately 19,000 members internationally. How was the Society of Jesus founded?
Ignatius of Loyola founded the ‘Company of Jesus’ with six others (Francisco Xavier, Pierre Faber, Alonso Salmerón, Diego Laínez, Nicolás Bobadilla and Simão Rodriguez) and took their first vows at a Mass at Montmartre in Paris in 1534. In 1537 they traveled to Italy to receive permission from Pope Paul III for the religious order. Later that year, Ignatius and his companions were ordained to the priesthood in Venice, Italy. On September 27, 1540, at the Palazzo San Marco in Rome, Pope Paul III signed the Bull “Regimini militantis ecclesiae,” establishing the Society of Jesus offic…

Amazed by Wonder

Aristotle, as many people know, believed that philosophical reflection begins in wonder (thaumazein). I think this is something I, at least, take for granted: I spend a great deal of time trying to work out complicated questions, making things clear for myself and others, that it's easy to neglect being in a state of wonder or astonishment. It's easy, that is, to try to make things reasonable, understandable, manageable. 
On Sunday, while playing the accordion for an Irish dancing competition, my friend Theresa (piano) and I were seated behind the stages. Preparing to dance, the children would line up just in front of us before going on stage. After many years of playing, I'm the first to admit that I seldom watch the dancers any longer. 
Yet as I watched the kids line up and prepared to play, one little girl caught my eye. She was possibly six years old and clearly very excited to get up on the stage. As the stage monitor lined her group up, she could barely contain hers…

Habemus Papam Franciscum!

It's utterly surreal to post that today the Church has selected one of my brother Jesuits to be the the 266th Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was today elected to be the Holy Father to 1.2 Billion Catholics.

His name is telling: Pope Francis. The name the image of Saint Francis of Assisi, charged in a vision of the Crucified Christ to "go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin."

Please join with me in praying for Pope Francis. May his simplicity and fervent devotion to the Lord give him the grace and strength to lead his flock. The task he has been given - a superhuman charge, to be sure - will ask more than any one man can give. Yet buoyed by our prayers and enlivened by God's grace, may he preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a Spirit of love and charity, setting on fire the hearts who long to hear Good News.

Cultural Blindness

"If it takes a community to raise a child," psychologist Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea writes, "it also takes a community to abuse a child; whenever a minor is sexually violated, someone's eyes are closed." (Perversion of Power, 31)

My ongoing research into various dimension of the clergy sex-abuse scandal has increasingly made me aware that the act of "sex abuse" seldom involves exclusively the Perpetrator and the Victim. Of course, at it's basal level, it does: the perpetrator abuses his/her power and takes advantage of one entrusted to him/her. Nevertheless,  it does appear that a great deal of the anger elicited over the scandal has arisen from the realization that people knew, that authorities had information, yet failed to act. A culture of fear - one does not betray a brother priest - as well as a culture of deference - "Father could never have..." - both contributed to this problem.

A project I'm about to begin, in hopes of pr…

Why is it that...?

Can someone explain to me why it is that, when I'm gathered in rather polite company, someone (usually after a few drinks) leans in, points toward me, and begins (what is almost certain to be) a harangue with the line, "You know, the Church needs to..."

Insert here your list of agenda items that the Church "needs to":

ordain women and married menbe relevant relax on the issue of abortion (Sort of an "Awww, geee, I guess it's okay" stance?)be nice to nunslet people use condoms and artificial birth control (this always conjures up an image of a bishop standing in one's bedroom, withholding the Trojans or denying the pill)get in touch with the needs of real peopleDo something about sex abuse (No argument here, but I have to admit that a great deal has been done: most of the cases we hear of in the news are decades old)be more inclusive (this is a catch-all term, I find) When I hear "You know, the Church needs..." my stomach instinctivel…

We Needed a Poll for This?

The New York Times is carrying a story this evening entitled "Poll Shows Disconnect Between U.S. Catholics and Church." Call me cynical, call me crazy, call me to task for just having finished two glasses of wine before reading the story, but my initial response: Duh! Ecclesiastes got it right: Nothing is new under the sun (1:9). American Catholics are discontent, demanding that the Roman Catholic Church conform itself to the image and likeness of 6% of the world's Catholic population.

No surprise. No shock. At least not here.

I'll be the guy to say it: the Catholic Church is at its worst when it adapts to American culture. Speaking only to the Catholic Church in America, I'd say that we are at our level worst when we behave as other institutions: profits over people, secrecy over transparency, power over prophecy. In order to preserve our good name, to safeguard our reputation, we have lied and covered-up terrible atrocities against our most precious resource: …

When Turkeys Attack

When I was missioned to study theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, I had immediate expectations: an excitement to plug into a vibrant Irish music scene, lots of opportunities to play at Irish dancing competitions, access to wonderful academic resources, and the vibrant cultural life afforded by living in a major city.
What I didn't expect to discovery my mortal foe, my great nemesis. Sure, history is full of great rivalries: Ahab had Moby Dick. 
Mufasa had Scar. 
Hulk Hogan had Andre the Giant.
VHS had Beta. 
Batman had the Joker. 
Me? Well, I have....the wild turkey. Not the kind you drink, either. 
I can't recall if I heard about the turkeys before I saw them or if it sort of happened at the same time. One paper's headline reads "Wild Turkeys terrorize Massachusetts." You may read this and think, "You've got to be kidding. These are turkeys, not zombies." 
Well, here's the difference. It's probably quite socially a…