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Showing posts from 2015

Consecrated Words

So, after almost 5 months of being a priest, I hit my low. It was bound to happen but, now that I've canvassed a few other Jesuits, it seems that my experience was pretty unique. Thus I share it with you, the readers, inasmuch as it gives me an opportunity to set it out in writing and provides me some distance from the events.


This morning I was the celebrant at a Veteran's Day mass at a downtown Boston parish. It was a really wonderful gathering of people and there were quite a few members of our Armed Services in attendance. Indeed, the deacon of the Word and our homilist was himself a veteran. In my mind, it was a great honor to be able to preside at a liturgy in honor of so many - including Grandpa Duns - who had given so much for our country.

During our celebration, one member of the congregation began to speak directly to me from the congregation. His words were hard to hear and I'm reluctant to duplicate them. Suffice it to say that they were not words one would no…

A Jesuit's Guide to Writing College Recommendation Letters

I remember quite clearly how exhilarating it was to be asked by a first-semester high school senior, “Hey, Abba, I was wondering if you would write a college recommendation letter.” I took it as a sign that I’d arrived as a teacher: this student trusted that I would be able to present him well to college admissions committees.
The novelty began to wear off after I received six more requests that day. Some students were very formal in requesting a letter, others much more casual. Having agreed to write six letters and with the prospect of more coming, I knew I needed to find a way to work efficiently and practically. What I offer, then, is the fruits of a great deal of trial-and-error.
Before You Begin to Write
Being asked to write on a student’s behalf is an honor. If you do not feel capable of writing a letter that will portray the student in the best possible light, you owe it to the student to be forthright and decline the invitation. Sometimes I simply didn’t’ know the student w…

FULL EPISODE: The Jesuit Rec Room w/ Caroline Myss

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For those interested, this is the full video of the video of our recent interview with Caroline Myss:





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Grade 25

Last Monday I began what, I believe, is my 25th academic year. Unless I am somehow called by a sick twist of fate, this will also be my final year as a class-taking student: next May I will begin to study for my comprehensive exams, so won't be doing any coursework in the 2016-2017 year. And, since I'm mentioning educational streaks, I think today is going to be my 22nd consecutive Mass of the Holy Spirit. Since my freshman year at Saint Ignatius High School, this has been the customary way of marking the beginning of the academic year. Even in those (admittedly few) years I was not enrolled in school, I still found my way to the celebration of this Mass at one of our institutions.

As of this morning, I'd say I'm now 75% settled into my new community. It's been a bit of a transition to move from full-time pastoral ministry this summer to full-time studies while having to unpack. Small things - like the complicated mail system - has made the shift more onerous. For…

The Jesuit Rec Room: Featuring Caroline Myss

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I don't think it'd be an exaggeration to say that this was the most transformative summer of my life. I'm glad now to be settled in back at Boston College and I feel ready to tackle my last year of formal studies.

If you have a moment, take a look at the attached video. For those who notice such things, it was Caroline Myss who insisted I re-name the blog to "The Tin Whistle Priest." You'll get a sense from watching the video just how persuasive she can be!

On episode two, Radmar Jao, S.J. and Ryan Duns, S.J. (blogger from The Tin Whistle Priest) invite Sr. Nancy Sylvester, IHM (former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious) and NYT bestselling author Caroline Myss into the rec room to talk about the power of prayer. The group discusses why and how they pray, the signs of prayers being heard and answered, and how to move beyond petition prayer to a place of true personal transformation. Also covered is the “crisis of self-isolation”, Nancy’…

When Shame is a Sign of Grace

Exhorting a crowd gathered in Rome, the Holy Father made the following remark:
It’s true that when we go to the confessional, we feel a bit of embarrassment, and that happens to everyone, to all of us, but we have to recall that this shame is also a grace that prepares us for the embrace of the Father, who always forgives and always forgives everything. Almost two months into priesthood, I can say there is hardly a more profound experience than to help another person come to know God's boundless and merciful love through the sacrament of confession. More than once have I watched as a person seems to become physically lighter -- slumped shoulders cease curving -- as they unburden themselves from the weights they carry.

Oh, and people carry the weight of sin around with them. I know, I said it: the dreaded s-word: sin. Though it's not a popular or trendy word, it remains nevertheless true that each and every one of us is freighted with the baggage of sin. We try to walk the path…

The Adventure Continues

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I'm the first to admit that I have a rather plum setting in which to learn the art of being a priest. Our daily Eucharist takes place at 11:00 am, which leaves me ample time to read and pray prior to Mass. The ribbons of the sacramentary no longer seem as daunting as they once did and I'm increasingly confident in my ability to recite portions of the Eucharistic prayers from memory.

Naturally, though, there's a catch.

I've never been a hyper-coordinated person. This is probably why I like the accordion: it doesn't require an enormous amount of coordinated exertion. One simply establishes oneself in a chair, or a bar stool, or stands just behind a microphone and plays tunes. Not a whole lot of movement.

Acknowledging my limitations, I set out last week to practice using the thurible or censer. Knowing that I'll eventually need to use incense, I seized an opportunity to practice a few days ago. I placed the charcoal in the bottom of the thurible, sampled a variet…

A Faith Worthy of Belief

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Around 36 years ago, in 1979, the telephone company AT&T rolled out what became one of the more successful advertising campaigns in history. To pitch its long-distance service, the slogan was "Reach Out and Touch Someone." In an era when we take unlimited minutes and free long distance for granted, it's hard to imagine how powerful it was for loved ones, separated by great distances, to hear the sound of a beloved's voice. Even if a telephone wire could not physically bring two people together, they could nonetheless "reach out" metaphorically to touch another by picking up the phone.

While the slogan may have been both innovative and profitable, the impulse behind our desire to "reach out and touch someone" is hardly new. Indeed, today the Church remembers Saint Mary Magdalene who, in today's Gospel, is the first to discover the Empty Tomb and to encounter the Risen Christ. In the midst of her grief, Jesus' address to her unleashes a…

Today, Moses Would Have Missed It

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Sad to say, I suspect that if Moses were a young man today, he'd probably miss the burning bush. Not, of course, because of any lack of effort on God's part. But with so many distractions today, it's awfully difficult to be attentive to our surroundings. People walk about the streets with eyes fixed upon hand-held screens and tune out ambient noises as they tune in personalized music. Indeed, it'd be my wager that college campuses - at least during the day - have become quieter over the years: students are so plugged into their own private worlds that there is an ever-decreasing need to engage in random interactions. Why stop to chat when you can just send a text?

I can imagine Moses walking the streets today, so enraptured by the latest Tweet or Facebook message that he'd completely miss what was going on around him. Modern technology would allow him to have his world...even if this convenience comes at the expense of increasingly divorcing him from the world he s…

The One Who Walks...

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For a few weeks there, I had established a pretty good writing rhythm. Then, last Tuesday, I caught two flights to Northern Michigan and now I'm well established in the rectory at St. Ann's Church. Indeed, I'm so well established that I even started a Twitter account for the parish: SteAnneMackinac

It's hard to describe being dropped into the life of a parish. As it turns out, the associate pastor I was meant to assist has been indisposed for the last week, so I've done the daily masses, weekend masses, and weddings. This week I have two weddings, a visit from the bishop, two square-dances, two weddings (one the ritual, one with a mass), and we are hosting a soccer coach from Wales, and three students from U of D Jesuit doing service work on the island. I spend time with the latter group but they have their own chaperone to mind them!

Now today, July 14th, is the feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Her parents succumbed to smallpox when she was only four years old a…

Prophetic Virtue

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What makes a prophet distinct? For those nurtured on a steady diet of Harry Potter books, the work prophet probably evokes an image of Sybill Trelawney who prophesied the downfall of Voldemort. Those of another generation may think of Nostradamus whose gnomic writings continue to be puzzled over. Regardless, the common notion of a prophet is one who somehow foretells what is to come in the future. 

While not uninterested in the future, this is not quite the nature of the Biblical prophet. For prophets like Ezekiel, or John the Baptist, or Jesus, there are two distinctive traits:

The prophet cannot not speak of God. The prophet must (a) offer a critique of the present order and (b) reimagine it. The vocation of the prophet is hardly, then, one involved with picking the next hot stock or winning combinations of lottery tickets. It is a demanding, austere, and difficult calling that offers no assurance of success. 
In this Sunday's readings, Ezekiel learns this first hand: he is sent…

At the Cusp of the Summer Adventure

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I returned to Boston on Monday with just about a week to move into a new Jesuit community. For the past three years, I have lived at the Saint Peter Faber Jesuit Community but, now that I'm ordained and will continue to study at Boston College, it seemed fitting for me to move up toward the main campus. So, for the past few days, I've been moving books and clothes to my new community where I will live with four other Jesuits in a quiet residential neighborhood.

In addition to moving, I am also excited to have the opportunity to preside at a liturgy for this year's North American Irish Dancing Championships being held in Providence, RI. Readers will know of my many years of involvement with Irish music and dancing and I'm pretty pumped to have a chance to pray with my Irish dancing family who has accompanied and supported me for so many years. 
To be sure, if there is anything I've become acutely aware of these weeks, it's how unbelievably well-supported I have…

Varieties of Eucharistic Reception

I've long wanted to blog about some of the odd behaviors people exhibit at Mass. If I were an artist, I'd try to render them in drawings and put captions underneath. Alas, my drawing skills seem to have been arrested sometime around pre-school, so I have to use words to make my point.

I'd like to spend a few moments describing the Varieties of Eucharistic Reception I have experienced. This is not meant as a critique of piety but as a bit of a jab at practice. As one tasked with distributing the Host and Precious Blood, it's less of a concern for me what you do and more problematic how it is done.

1. Holy Halitosis!

I make a concerted effort to elevate the host or chalice, make eye contact, and say clearly, "The Blood of Christ" or "The Body of Christ." Sometimes the vigorous assent of "Amen" carries with it a waft of garlic, or curry, or the sewer. I don't believe there is such a thing as good breath, but there certainly is a wide arra…

The Best Intentions...

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At least it has been my experience that, when I set out to tackle a public reading project, it withers quite quickly. Such it is with a reading of Laudato Si - I intended to use each of the mornings last week to read, consider, and publicly reflect upon the encyclical. As it turns out, I was given the opportunity to cover the morning masses at my home parish of St. Brendan. It's a great testament to the pastor, Father Tom Woost, that those morning masses are super well attended. On Friday I think there were six or seven teenage girls who came to mass following a sleepover.

On Saturday I was privileged to celebrate the Eucharist with the parish community. Four priests were in attendance - Fathers Woost, Cornelius Murray, Mahoney, and Jayme Stayer, SJ. Each one of these men has exercised a formative influence on my vocation and I'm extraordinarily grateful to have had the chance to pray with them. Indeed, I'm especially grateful that they "fed me lines" when I for…

Reading Laudato Si

Having a few days break before returning to Boston, I have the luxury of giving a slow-read to the Holy Father's encyclical Laudato Si. Without trying to give a summary of the text, I thought it might be nice to offer a few reflections on the document. 

In the introduction to the document, we find a tantalizingly suggestive phrase: integral ecology. Pope Francis does not immediately define this term, but he tethers it to the vision Saint Francis had for the environment. Consistent with a tradition reaching back to the psalms, the Holy Father desires his readers to take a stance that allows creation itself to praise God's glory. Far from a bloodless portrayal of the environment as an assemblage of biological organisms, Pope Francis understands creation as the primordial locus of wonder and awe:
If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attit…

First Week

I was overjoyed to celebrate the Eucharist with the daily mass-goers at my home parish of St. Brendan in North Olmsted, Ohio. I have very fond memories of serving in the small chapel before school and it was a thrill to be there today. The congregation was very gracious and patient as I continue to figure out how to "work" the book and its many...many...many...ribbons.

In a few minutes, I'll drive down to Kentucky to play the accordion for two Irish dancing competitions. This may strike some as odd but, to be honest, I cannot think of a better way of describing what my sense of priesthood is: my duty is to help others do what they love. So I play the music for people to dance, just as I pray and celebrate the sacraments in order that women and men can be good disciples.

Though if I may, a moment of venting.

So, I'm going to celebrate Mass at the feis (Irish dancing competition) this weekend. I have hosts, chalice, paten, linens, alb, a beautiful chasuble (Thanks to …

10 Things to Know About Laudato Si

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This is a very well-done piece produced by America Magazine.



It certainly provides a remarkable contrast to the commentary offered by Greg Gutfeld.

As I mentioned yesterday, the near-allergic reaction some are having to this encyclical betrays a fundamental inability of Americans to think in categories not associated with politics. Our shared home - our oikos - and its stewardship have been politicized into "Left" versus "Right." Pope Francis isn't offering a political agenda but, rather, a theological reflection on the environment. For those familiar with Ignatian spirituality's commitment to "find God in all things," this encyclical attempts to peer beneath the economic, political, and scientific data to probe the theological meaning of the environment and our impact upon it.


Better as People, but not Political??

I'm rather dismayed today in reading a comment made by Jeb Bush. As reported by the New York Times:
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Mr. Bush said. “And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issues before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.” On the face of it, this seems to resonate with the American understanding of the separation between Church and State. The Church cannot, within this system, set the policy by which the State operates.

Yet if you scratch the surface, a question comes to the fore. If religion is meant to make us "better people," and if we live together in society, then does it not stand to reason that religion does indeed come to bear upon the politic…

To Provoke Curiosity

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Nearly twelve years ago, as I was preparing applications to doctoral programs in theology, I felt a stirring in my heart that led me to make an inquiry into a Jesuit vocation. I had known the Jesuits as teachers and mentors and while I had given fleeting thought to becoming a Jesuit, I had never pursued it with much energy.

It was a mid-September day that I went to see the vocation director who was staying at Saint Ignatius High School. We had a nice meeting and I left interested but with no more clarity about whether I wanted to be a Jesuit. He had told me a great deal about the Society and the process of becoming a Jesuit, but I didn't necessarily feel any more moved to want to become one.

Until, that is, I got to my car. I had no sooner put the key into the ignition than a Jesuit I knew from when I was in high school walked past my car. He didn't see me but I had a clear sight of him and there was no mistaking it: he was happy. This aroused within me the greatest sense of …