Showing posts from January, 2013

2012 Student Senate

Due to an oversight, the 2011-2012 U of D Jesuit Student Senate Officers (and humble moderator) did not get a feature in the annual yearbook. One of our enterprising mothers, Denise, remedied this for us and produced the following.

Full Disclosure: The picture with the kids holding wine bottles was taken at a dinner they served (and I cooked) for parents. There was no underage consumption of alcohol - it was a picture staged for and taken by some of the parents!

Catholicism's Curse

I have a little bit of time this morning, so I'd like to make a few comments about Frank Bruni's New York Times Op-Ed piece entitled "Catholicism's Curse." Bruni begins with the bromide, "I admire a lot of priests, but I can't stand the institution." You know, tip your hat to the select "men of genuine compassion and remarkable altruism" and then go on to excoriate the institution to which they belong.

Drawing on the soon-to-be released book by Garry Wills (Why Priests? A Failed Tradition) Bruni draws his reader's attention to recently released documents showing Cardinal Mahony's role in failing to address adequately, if not concealing, the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Bruni excoriates the Church for its arrogance, for its being out of step with the "rest of the world" and those who dissent from "the all male priesthood...[or] the commitment to celibacy that priests are required to make." Not to sound cyn…

Praying the Day, Morning Edition

A friend of mine emailed the other day and asked for advice on prayer. I'd like this post to be the first of several that says a little something both about why we pray and how to pray.

When I was in the 4th grade, our religion class was taught once each week by Sister Victoria. To my 10-year old mind, she was an ancient and towering figure: dressed in a nondescript skirt suit with sensible shoes, Sister towered over the classroom and easily held a group of unruly students in rapt attention as she recounted the life of the various lives of the saints. It was her special ability to make the holy men and women of the Church vibrant and interesting.

At some point, she gave us this simple advice about prayer:

Every morning when you wake up, don't jump out of bed. Don't complain to your mom or dad that you are sick or that you don't want to go to school. Instead, have a good stretch and say, "Good morning, Lord. How are you today?" Then, go through your day with …

The Problem of God

The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray (1904-1967) gave 1962's St. Thomas More lectures at Yale University. The talks were published as a slender volume entitled The Problem of God. I began reading these lectures on the train from Boston to New York and found them utterly fascinating.  In the introduction to the text, Murray makes the following incisive observation:
If God is not, no one is permitted to say or even think that he is, for this would be a monstrous deception of oneself and of others. It would be to cherish and propagate a pernicious illusion whose result would necessarily be the destruction of man. On the other hand, if God is, again one thing is not permitted. It is not permitted that any man should be ignorant of him, for this ignorance, too, would be the destruction of man. On both counts, therefore, no man may say that the problem of God is not his problem.  I find these words brilliantly refreshing. CNN's recent story about the "Godless Mom" who …

Pay Your Way?

Having recently completed three years as a high school teacher, I'm well acquainted with the trials and travails afflicting families in their search (1) for college and (2) ways to pay for it. I've known some families where the student's "dream school" was simply too expensive and the student had to select another, less expensive school. Then again, I've known parents who seem to think nothing of writing the proverbial blank check and sending the child off to college with no worries about loans or part-time jobs.

Perhaps it's not as good an idea as it sounds.

The New York Times is carrying a story, "Parents' Financial Support May Not Help College Grades" which quotes a recent sociological study linking "greater parental contributions" with "lower grades across all kinds of four-year institutions."

The article is clear at the beginning: financially privileged students are more likely to go to and graduate from college. Ne…

What Would It Look Like...

This evening, over a glass of wine, one of my Jesuit brothers told me of a program being run at the parish where he assists on the weekend. The gist of it is this: religious formation, so often thought of as only for those being prepared for one of the sacraments, is offered to the whole family. That is, it's not the case of mom or dad dropping the kid off and then collecting him/her a few hours later. Indeed, it's a full-family investment into the progress of learning about the family's Catholic faith.

The mantra, playing over and again in my mind, has been "We'll get what we are." This insight, taken from Christian Smith's book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (p. 57), recalls to my mind that so many of our values are not simply learned but, rather, imitated. Just as the rituals of watching Monday Night Football or a Sunday game are something children are brought up into so, too, might we raise our children to sha…

A Few Videos from Christmas Time - Tin Whistle Stuff

Brian and I playing three jigs.

For Denise:

This is the video of "Christmas Eve" I told you and Mark about when we were at dinner. My sister makes this....disastrous.

The Three Sea Captains - a very common set dance. Two bigger fools you'll not find in a day's walk.

Tin Whistle: Home Ruler Hornpipe and Noel Hill's Reel

If you've ever wanted to see what I go home to during the holidays, watch this video. The tunes Brian and I play are nice, to be sure, but it's my sister Torrey's antics in the background that make the beginning of the video rather noteworthy.

Teenage Suicide

Almost exactly two months ago, I was walking into a hotel room in Chicago when I received a phone call from Detroit informing me that one of my former students had just taken his own life. I didn't sleep that night, staring for hours at the ceiling and wondering, "Could something have been done?" For many days following, I felt great sadness at the thought of how much pain this young man must have endured that led him to think that ending his life was the only way to relieve his agony.

Yesterday's New York Times carried a story entitled "Study Questions Effectiveness of Therapy for Suicidal Teenagers." I'm fascinated by the reported statistic that "55 percent of suicidal teenagers had received some therapy before they thought about suicide, planned it or tried to kill themselves...". The story goes on to point out something many of us intuit: teenage suicide is not necessarily a one-off occurrence with a simple origin but, rather, part of a c…

The Steubenville Question

Last night, I watched a segment on the alleged rape of a young girl in Ohio and listened to the pundits ask the questions that confound many: How could onlookers stand by with camera phones in hand as the girl was violated? Why did no one do anything?

As expressed by the pundits, a common theme emerged, arguing that teenagers are immersed in a culture of alcohol, drugs, violence, and pornography and they've become desensitized. Parents, they continued, need to do a better job policing their children, monitoring what they watch and put into their bodies. With this I agree completely: I do think it remarkable that parents who give a kid a smart phone and a computer with internet access wonder why the child stays upstairs and refuses to interact with the family. I suspect it's hard to parent a child via text or twitter, that it's hard to be a mom or a dad to a child you seldom see.

Nevertheless, I have to wonder: how much are we to blame for the toxic cultural atmosphere we …

Courting Controversy

There are certain ways of asking questions - "Have you stopped embezzling money from your company?" "Have you admitted you were an alcoholic yet?" - that deceptively invite a simple yes or no answer while concealing the fact that, however answered, either response incriminates a person in doing something wrong. That is, to answer yes admits past wrongdoing; to answer no means that you've not yet quit whatever you were doing. 
It is simply the case that, within the Catholic Church today, it is nearly impossible to engage in a public discourse in a way that doesn't risk tremendous collateral damage. There are numerous topics - women's ordination, the role of homosexuals, abortion, relationship of Church and state, matters of voting, etc. - that are politically charged and divisive. While much conversation is needed on these topics, and there are many views to be represented and discussed, the sad fact of the matter is that it's very difficult to do s…