Monday, December 26, 2005

St Stephen's Day

I have often shared details about how I pray or how I think about things, so I think it's appropriate for me to share how I spent my Christmas:

My eyes began to well up with tears as I looked around the table last night. Here, gathered in my grandmother's kitchen, I scanned those around me to see my mother, my aunts and uncles, and a few cousins who had all gathered together to spend the holiday together. There were others around, of course - kids playing in the living room, other relatives chatting merrily in the family room recounting events of the past, but here in the kitchen, here in the heart of my grandma's house, I felt tears in my eyes as I saw all those gathered around me...

and I had to blink back the tears induced by the foul and malodorous gases my uncles seemed to draw forth from the very depths of hell to share with the rest of the family. I mean, I'm all for the Christmas spirits, but PLEASE - the federal government would do well to monitor the gas emissions of my three uncles as I suspect they contribute more to the degradation of the ozone layer, the nation's consumption of air freshener, and the purchasing of scented candles than any other triumverate. I honestly believe that the headache I am feeling right now is less a consequence of drinking (I had nothing to drink last night) and directly attributed to the lack of oxygen I suffered while playing board games in the kitchen. The stench was so bad at times that my aunt Cheryl conjectured that her nasal passages were on the verge of rupture, the lights began to flicker as the odious gases corroded electrical wiring, and I fear that my hair loss has now been accelerated exponentially.

If that's not holiday cheer, I don't know what is.

I can give a shot-out to my godfather Jack Duns and my aunt Nancy for their gift of Dunkin Donuts gift certificates. I *love* DD's coffee and, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe there is a Dunkin Donuts not far from my new community. My dad is telling me as I write this that Jack and I have something very profound in common: neither of us drinks lite beer. I hate lite beer and have found it more prudent to bring my own beer to my house (my father doesn't buy anything special for me either, Jack) rather than suffer quafting lite brews.

For some, this post will seem a radical departure from my more introspective musings. If, however, you traverse the broad-scope of my blogging, you'll find this post more in line with the "old days" of my blog and, though perhaps a little obnoxious, I'd like to think that I'm simply staking out my stake in the Hagan family's pantheon of strange characters. Besides, I have a feeling that the work I do and report on this semester as a Clinical Pastoral Education intern will give rise to many more serious posts, so I might as well get my silliness out now!

Monday, December 19, 2005


Howdy! The novices leave this evening for our Christmas Triduum which will end on Thursday. SO, until that time, there'll be no posts nor any way for me to answer phone or email messages. It is with great eagerness that I have been awaiting this retreat and I feel that I need it quite badly both to put some time into my prayer and to spend some time reading and sleeping.

When we began the semester, I made it my personal goal to be able to bench press 135lbs four times. Being sick for many weeks, coupled with other stresses, I really struggled to achieve this goal. Even on Friday I could get 135lbs up twice, but had a heck of a time getting beyond that. Well, today I managed to get all four - not just one set of four, but TWO. Then I struggled to get 155lbs twice...which didn't go quite as well but I did manage to do it with help.

I mention this as I go away for Triduum because it seems to me that this is an apt image for many of our spiritual lives. We put in the time and effort, despite the chaos of our lives, and so often it seems that nothing happens. It seems that our effort and energy is wasted and that we've nothing to show for all our trying. Yet changes do happen and we do get stronger...even though it takes a long time for us to see it!

So that's that. It's time now to pack my comfy clothes and the other Chronicles of Narnia that I want to read. I wish all of you a very merry and blessed Christmas and, in case I don't get to post before then, a very happy new year.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This was my first Hockey Game (Motor City Mechanics versus the Quad City Mallards). Posted by Picasa

A group photo of us with our new pool table. We also have a cover for the table that allows us to play table-tennis on it. Last night, for our Christmas party, we covered the table and used it for our buffet for the dishes we served. I'll write more about that when I have time! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Updated Recipe!

Yes, at long last, I have updated the Recipe Site. Tonight's offering is a delicious Spice Bread that will be a sure hit at any gathering.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Open House

In keeping with the new tradition, we will be having an Open House at "La Casa Duns" on the 26th of December. Since it's an open house, it means that anyone/everyone is invited so if you'll be around that evening, please stop by the house for some food and libations. There will hopefully be some music (I expect Mike and Brian will bring their whistles/flute/accordion) and hopefully much laughter.

Things have been very busy in Ryan's life of late. I administered and graded two exams last week. I wrote one of the final exams I'm giving next week and I'll try and write the other one in a few minutes. I'm also in the planning stages of next weekend's "2006 Loyola House Christmas Party" which everyone is invited to attend: 2599 Harvard Road, Berkley, MI 48072. The party begins at 7:30 and there will be much food and much fun to be had by all.

I will be very glad Thursday evening when my final grades are submitted. Until then, I'll be working diligently trying to craft tremendously intricate math problems for my students to tackle and slaving laboriously over recipe books searching for the food offering for our party Saturday night.

**Oh, lest I be too hasty to get to writing my exam: Brian English took first place at his school's science fair. He tested the growth of plants as a function of soil content. As I expect a full report of his statistical findings complete with footnotes and big and hard to pronounce words, I'll be sure to post his research on the web when I have it reviewed by a team of experts on such matters.**

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Oireachtas Musings

I have a few minutes before I go downstairs and watching episodes 7 & 8 of "OZ" season three, so I thought I'd post some thoughts about the Oireachtas.

First off, it was really great to return to playing music. For those of you who don't know, before I entered the novitiate I used to play for Irish dancing competitions (feis, pronounced fesh, not fetish). Many of my dearest and closest friends are affiliated with Irish dancing and I count it as one of the greatest singular graces in my life to have been able to serve my culture and heritage by providing music for its dancers.

This being said, I had a very difficult time transitioning back into the fray. I found the number of people and the absolute "excess" of the whole affair to be overwhelming. I'd like to say that I am concerned on a day-to-day basis with the needs of starving babies and the poorest of the poor, but that'd be a bit disingenuous. I am, however, much more acutely aware of the needs of the world than I was, say, two years ago. So it was rather jarring to return to the relatively affluent world of Irish dancing - well-dressed adjudicators and teachers and musicians, expensive costumes, excessive make-up, etc. - when my attention has been directed toward those who have very little. This is not a slam or an indictment, only the confession that I had a hard time relating to the concerns of many of the people with whom I used to feel that I had so much in common with. I think I was very frustrated with myself for much of the weekend, particularly as I used to love so dearly to play for these events and relished in the social scene that accompanied it.

What I am learning is that part of my Jesuit formation - the part that has thrust me into a number of different experiences like teaching math or working in a hospital or teaching kindergarten - has changed in a radical way my perception of reality. I see things differently than I did two years ago...even from one year or six months ago! I guess this means that Jesuit formation is working, that it is stretching me in many ways. This weekend, I feel like I was stretched...I feel like I was torn. The experience of being "torn" was one that indicated that, although I will forever be an Irish musician, my role in the world of Irish dancing is neither all-important nor self-defining. I realized that I am not the person that I want most to be when I'm staying in huge hotel rooms (or small rooms, for that matter) and going to dinner dances and talking about reels and wigs and expensive costumes. Sure, it's a part of me, but it's not me in my's not how I define myself any longer.

As I sat on the airplane Monday morning, I had a thought that I'd now retire from playing feiseanna (that's the plural for fesh). But I don't think it's in me to give it up -- I love too much to play for Irish dancers. But whereas before my identity was as a "Feis Musician" I feel now more comforable in relocating my designation to a "Jesuit-feis musician." My vocation as a musician has graced me with being enter the lives of countless children and adults through their ears and, through my music, I have been able to enter their hearts. What was special, though, about a number of my conversations this weekend is that while music was the point of departure for my exchanges with people, the conversation flowed naturally into deeper topics, topics that touched at the core of our shared experiences and led me and my conversation partner to a deeply shared sense of one another. Sometimes these were random exchanges held in the lobby of the hotel, in-between rounds of dancers, or in the evening after the awards had been distributed. As random as they were, it was these conversations that gave me the strength to endure 134 slip jigs or 65 set dances because they reminded me that, beneath much of the superficial nonsense of Irish dancing, there are very many good people who are truly in love with and committed to their culture and its preservation.

Enough of my rambling! It's time now to watch OZ -- the prison show that aired on HBO a few years ago. Since Drew, Eric, and Ben are working at the county jail, they thought it would give them an insight into the prison experience. It's become an addiction for several of us and I'm two episodes behind, so I have to make them up before the DVD is returned tomorrow!

Ben Krause produced this composite picture. Under the aegis of Coach Walter Farrell, Team Detroit battled Team Chicago, led by Coach Bill Verbryke. Posted by Picasa

Turkey Bowl

In every age, the cry of the people rings out calling for new champions, new titans to represent the hopes and dreams of the masses. This cry echoes far and wide and here at Loyola House, the weary world found its champions, its gladiators of sport who would play out on the theater of the football field the eternal drama of good versus evil, light versus darkness, Detroit versus Chicago.

The Arena: Turkey Bowl 2005

It's probably an annual tradition (read: if it's done for more than two years at this house, it becomes somehow a tradition) for the Chicago novices to play the Detroit novices every Thanksgiving. While Denis Weber and Richard Beebe slaved away in the kitchen, I got to go out and play football (I was the "center" and I caught one interception). It was a lot of fun, despite the frigid weather and wicked wind.

After memorizing a great victory on the gridiron (Detroit 35 to Chicago 21), some of us repaired to the kitchen where we worked slavishly to prepare for dinner. If I can do so, I'll put the recipes up on the net, but here's the menu:

Prosciutto and Hazelnut Encrusted Turkey
Sweet Potatoes
Garlic Whipped Potatoes
Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Cornbread Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce with marmalade and orange juice
Cheddar Biscuits
Tim McCabe's Shitake gravy
Ginger Honey Pumpkin Pie
Spiced whipped cream
Strawberry Cloud from Drew

Not a shabby spread!

Ok, I'm just back from the gym and pretty stinky. I'm going to shower (too much information) and then I'm off to UD Mercy to have office hours, write two tests, and get ready for my own class. If I have time later, I'll write about the Oireachtas.


Team Chicago Posted by Picasa

Team Detroit Posted by Picasa

All of the players post-game. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2005

Return from the Oireachtas

Well, it's over!

Oireachtas 2005 has come and gone and I couldn't be happier. I'm going to be busy for the next few days, but I hope to find time this week to write down my reflections on the event and the great relief I feel now that it's over.

My trips to and from Columbus were wholly uneventful.

So that's it for the moment. I'm WAY behind in some grading so I need to set about marking a slew of papers, then I need to prepare for class tomorrow!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Quiet Weekend at Loyola House

It's hard to belive that it's already Sunday evening...where has the week gone?

Sadly, Adam's grandfather passed away this week. On Thursday, several novices drove down to Cleveland to attend the funeral mass/burial. I was honored to be invited to play a slow-aire for the mass. I could not attend the burial services as I had to turn around and drive out to Chicago for my CPE interview.

Without going into too much detail, I am now officially accepted for the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Loyola University Medical Center. I met a number of the other chaplains and residents and I'm so excited to have this opportunity. My goals are many, but I really want to cultivate an ever-present disposition of attention, reverence, and devotion. That is, I hope to be attentive to God's presence in the life of the person with whom I am dealing, I want to reverence that person as being a bearer of God, and then be devoted to that person in order that I might companion that person in his or her unfolding awareness of how God is working in his or her life. I also want to work on empathy skill that will make me more of an affective/effective listener.

I went to see Harry Potter on Friday night (after driving with reckless abandon in order to make it back to Loyola House). I liked it. I'd say that the character development was a bit dodgy, but I can't complain too much as it's a movie that attempts to condense several hundred pages of writing into a 2.5 hour movie. Besides, I'm not looking for it win an Oscar; it is what it is: Mind Candy.

The rest of my weekend seems to have been spent in the kitchen. I made steak for dinner on Saturday and Denis and I made pork roast tonight. Now my eyes turn toward Thanksgiving dinner, which ought to be quite the culinary event.

This week will be pretty nutsy. I'm going to play the Oireachtas in Columbus, so I leave Thursday evening and return Monday morning. It'll be nice to be away from the house and to re-connect with the Irish dancing world.

Apart from this, there's not much Jesuit stuff to talk about. I think I'm going to go out for a walk and then come back to watch our videotaped episode of Smallville.

Happy Belated Birthday to Mike English who turned 16 this last week (November 15th). I remember my 16th birthday very well: I didn't get a car. I don't expect that Mike got one, either.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sons of Luther

My Uncle Jack commented that I have not made much, if any, mention of the influence my father's Lutheran faith has had on my life. I'm sure that it was a conscious slight against the Missouri Synod Lutherans (as my father sez, the "Defenders of the Faith").

Because my mom went to church, we children went to church. My father preferred to worship at the altar of the Blessed Pillow on Sunday mornings after, of course, he had made eggs and bacon for breakfast. Dad did acquiesce and joined his family for mass on Christmas and Easter. It was kind of a treat, sort of like ecclesial show-and-tell, to bring my Dad to church - he was the token Protestant in attendance! Indeed, I can still recall vividly sitting in the back pews at Easter Sunday Mass with my father who pulled out his Watchman (mini-tv) and watched, I believe, some type of sporting event.

I consider myself to be a Mudblood (like in Harry Potter), the product of the union of a Catholic and a Lutheran. If there's been anything that has kept my view on my tradition in perspective, it is my father's observations about the Catholic church. I wouldn't necessarily call him a major critic, but there are good reasons he's not a Catholic and he's quite able to articulate these reasons. Perhaps it is the years of clashing theologically that I have developed my own stance on a number of issues and find myself, more often than not, trying to take a more ecumenical view on issues.

I am annoyed to no end by those who seem to think that it's a slight against my "evangelical zeal" that I have not converted my father to the Catholic church! I don't suspect that any of us chooses his or her faith tradition idly; in fact, I think that an adult assent of faith involves an enormous amount of struggle in order to appropriate it fully. It is for this reason, this struggling and chafing, that people take their faiths so seriously - as an investment of spiritual, emotional, and physical capital, our faiths are deeply cultivated relationships. If my father is a better man for being a Missouri Synod Lutheran, if he in conscience feels that this is who he is called to be and how he is called to live, then all I can do is witness my own faith in such a way that I am open to him and his tradition while allowing myself to be informed by his.

This raises the stentorian cries of relativism from a number of persons. I'd sooner a person who lives out fully his or her faith commitments than a milquetoast Catholic. I also take seriously the church's teaching on conscience and trust that my father has, in the encounter between and God and himself in his conscience, responded in faith in the way that he is best able.

(He doesn't know that I baptized him in his sleep. He's really an unaware-Catholic.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Home on a Friday Night

I can tell I'm getting old because it's Friday night and I'm glad to be home for the evening. I remember the old days of boarding planes and spending evenings talking the politics of Irish dancing, only to stay up too late and wake up far too early to play for thousands of Irish dancers at the feis, go out to dinner, and talk more of Irish dancing.

I don't miss that part at all.

Not much to say, really. My professor liked the paper I wrote proposing a narrative context against to situation the debate concerning ordinary and extraordinary means of treatment for persons in persistent vegetative states. It's a mouthful, to be sure, but he liked it well enough to suggest that I send it off for publication. So I spent the better part of my afternoon putting a few touch-ups on the essay.

Tomorrow morning I'm running TWO miles. Yeah, it's far away from the goal of 13 miles, but please recall that I am by no means a runner and two miles will be something of a stretch. Know, however, that my three 1-mile runs this week grew progressively easier and I'm pretty confident that I'll have no need for a crash-cart to follow me on my run tomorrow morning.

So that's the news. Nothing terribly exciting - I expect it to be a quiet weekend here at Jesuit camp. This means, of course, that something catastrophic is bound to happen rendering my hope for peace and quiet a far-distant and blissful (yet unfulfilled) memory.

Ok, time to watch FoodTV or something.

OOHH! Taco Bell Tacos (when made 'fresca') are actually quite tasty and have not too much fat in them. They're surely not as healthy as rice-cakes (which I ate enough of when I was in Weight Watchers) but they're still pretty all right. Try them some time.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Well, a new twist has developed in my life:

I think I'm going to train for a half-marathon (that's 13.1 miles).

It was during time spent in prayer that it came to me that this might be something to do. As I trace the scope of my life, I've always been pretty self-conscious about the way I looked when I ran. But it seems to me that my ungainly stride doesn't necessarily mean that I can't try to do something new and wholly out of regular character. I mean, as I see it, why not? What's there to lose? Going to the gym didn't kill with any luck neither will this.

I don't know yet when any such marathon will be. To be honest, I don't reckon it matters as I'm interested more in the training process than in the actual race. This is more for personal benefit and proving to myself that I can do it than it is anything else.

It also advances me one step further to my ultimate goal of being a member of a super-secret and elite Jesuit ninja squad.

So this week I'll run ONE MILE Sunday (in about 15 minutes I'll be outside doing my version of running - not quite running, not quite jogging, it's to be called Rogging), Tuesday, and Thursday and then I'll make a big leap to TWO MILES on Saturday morning. It doesn't sound like a lot, to be sure, but I've got to start somewhere.

Besides, I need a new hobby in addition to cooking and the accordian.


Thursday, November 03, 2005


Okay, so it's time for me to stroke the ego. I'm including in this post the (rather lengthy) story that was written about mein the Midwest Irish Focus. It was written by Mary Lewis who works at Rockhurst University.


Jesuit Finds Calling in Irish Accordian

This month we introduce you to Ryan Duns. We first became aware of Ryan when we read a short paragraph in the Jesuit Magazine Company, which lists new seminarians each year. Ryan is in his second year of seminary, preparing towards professing his first vows in the Society of Jesus. The fact that Ryan plays the Irish accordion professionally caught our eye. Through a bit of research, we caught up with Ryan via email, and he shared some wonderful stories from his life.

Ryan stated he had a pretty traditional Catholic upbringing; his mother is Irish Catholic, he had two great-aunts who were nuns, and his grandmother was always encouraging him to be a priest. “In fact, it was my astute observation as a child that if I were to respond to "Ryan, what do you want to be when you grow up?" with a wry smile and an innocent "I want to be a priest" that I earned not only favorable looks, but a couple of quarters from my grandfather.”

When he went to college, he knew that he wanted to teach in some capacity. He loved chemistry, so he pursued that as a major until he “realized that as much fun as it was and as well as I did in it as a course of study, phosphoric acid did not fire me up. Reading the course catalogs one night, I found myself drawn to courses in Religious Studies and, when I decided to change my major, I informed my father whose only caveat was "just don't become a priest!" Well, I guess I met him half way in joining the Jesuits.”

When Ryan was a little boy, his little sister was heavily involved in Irish dancing.
Seeing the fun she was having, Ryan asked his parents if he couldn't be a dancer.
“Being too young to understand that I was a terrific klutz, my parents made an eminently sensible decision: they told me that all dancers needed music, and promptly signed me up for tin whistle lessons.”

Ryan took to the whistle pretty quickly, and after a few years felt ready to move on. He says that when he was in the fourth grade, “my parents made yet another great decision for my musical life: while other kids got drums and guitars and saxophones, I received a dusty mother-of-pearl accordion. Yeah, I was the envy of every kid on the block!”

This was the beginning of lessons. Ryan says “To be honest, I pretty much hated playing the darned thing until I was in college when, in the glow of interest generated by Riverdance, I found it both fun and lucrative to be a professional accordion player.” Ryan spent hours in the bathroom (according to him, “it's the best room for acoustics in most houses”) practicing on the rim of the bathtub and, after several months, he was playing pretty regularly. “Luckily I made friends with a number of influential people and I will admit to working very hard so, in the course of three years, I went from playing *maybe* 14 feiseanna each year to playing almost 40 out of 52 weekends in 2003!”

I asked Ryan if he had entertained dreams of being a professional musician. He responded he never had much of a desire to live full time the rock-star life of a professional accordion player. “I'm actually much more of a home body and love to make dinner for friends or spend time reading and listening to music. Weekends away, delayed flights, carrying an accordion on my back...they are part of my passion, and it paid the bills, and it allowed me to share my culture with others....but it would not be my vocation to play professionally. I rather enjoy teaching, though, and have had great success with my music students at various competitions.” I asked Ryan if he taught lessons regularly. He said he seldom teaches the accordion, and that is has been hard, particularly since joining the Society, to meet with students on a regular basis.

He does teach, however, the tin whistle and he has at present two what he describes as BRILLIANT students, Michael and Brian English. “They came to me last summer (2004) wanting lessons and, sad to say, they were in pretty sorry shape. Loving a challenge, I took them as students and made them commit to practice. After several weeks of teaching them, Mike and Brian came in one day. Looking dejected, Brian gave me a forlorn stare and said, "Ryan, nobody knows me. I've got to be out there, man! I've got to be living the life." This out of the mouth of a then ten-year old. Almost one year later, Michael won the 15-18 Tin Whistle competition at the Fleadh in St Louis and his little brother, Brian, took 2nd place in the under-12 competition! They've made great strides both as musicians and as young men and it has been my great honor and joy to teach them.”

Ryan has taught for a number of years, but says it is hard to maintain close contact with all of his students - changing schedules, college, sports, etc., made it difficult. With Mike and Brian, however, Ryan does "phone lessons" every week so that they keep up on their material and, whenever possible, he has lessons with them in Cleveland or they come up to Detroit to see him. Sounds like they are true fans of their teacher!

I asked Ryan what it was that attracted him to this particular instrument and to Irish music. “What I loved about music - celebrating my heritage and helping to free people to dance - is the same thing I loved about my faith. So it came as little surprise to many when I announced in 2004 that I'd be entering the Society of Jesus. On August 21st I celebrated my one-year anniversary and I can't say that I've ever been happier.

Ryan also shared a bit of Jesuit irony. When he was in the 8th grade, he began to play with a local Irish band called "Tap the Bow." This band had been started two years earlier by Brother Jim Boynton, SJ, then a young teacher at St Ignatius High School. Ryan’s first year in the band coincided with his last year teaching there, and Ryan says “for all intents and purposes, he was the first Jesuit I'd met. I saw Jim once while in Detroit in about 1999. In 2003, I decided to apply to the Jesuits and, when I went to inquire, learned to my great delight that Brother Jim was now the vocation director and was in his first year as such. Well, long story made short, I became one of the members of his first class of recruits; now, on most weekends, you can find us on the porch of the house playing Irish music accompanied by several singers, drum players, guitarists, and spoons!

“I play Irish music on the piano accordion -- making me, in some sense, a version of Steve Erkle from the 90's sitcom "Family Matters" except that I'm white and play Irish music! I asked Ryan to talk with me about the differences between the Irish accordion and any other accordion. He replied “The piano accordion is preferred by Irish dancers because of its full sound and the fact that the right and left hands (treble and bass) are easily synched. The Irish accordion, or button-box, operates on a different system than the piano accordion. Most are known as "diatonic" meaning that each button plays two different notes depending on how you are squeezing the accordion. Such coordination is beyond me, and my parents wisely opted for the piano accordion, for which such problems as "two notes" seldom arises.”

“In terms of music, I think Irish music is so phenomenal because it is a living tradition, one that changes and grows and evolves over time. It's immigrant music, notes written long ago that traveled across the Atlantic to find new soil here in America; notes that became smudged with coal dust and soapy water and ground down with poverty and oppression; notes that remembered fondly the home and family in Ireland and, though with longing for the past, cast eyes forward to the home and family newly started in this new land; notes that carry joy and sadness, hopes and fears, the life and death and struggles and triumphs of a people. It is the music of my grandfathers and grandmothers, the music of my students, the music and story of my heart. Then Ryan added, “Forgive me if I wax and wane somewhat poetic -- it's a topic I feel strongly about!”

It is this passion for his music that is so endearing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ho Hum

So I'm now killing the last thirty minutes of my weekly office hours. Having worked two crossword puzzles, developed a bank of twenty word problems, and written an exam, I'm not officially bored.

The fact that I'm still a bit sore from my infection doesn't make sitting here any more pleasant!

I'm going to update the blog again this evening, provided that the soon-to-be released article about me arrives in the mail. I want to make sure that the advanced copy I received matches the one in the paper. It's a nice piece - quite long, in fact, and it goes a long way in capturing all of my endearing qualities...if there were any.

I have class today at 4:00. This means I need to find sustenance and I fear that means I'll make a run to the border at good 'ol Taco Bell. Come to think of it, I shall wrap this post up here: I have a new task to find out the nutrional information for some of the things I eat there. This ought to be fun!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Health Update

I saw the specialist today. It turns out that I've had quite a stubborn infection that moved into my ureters (leading to the bladder from the kidneys) which is what accounts for the pain in my side. My doctor gave me some anti-inflammatory medicine as well as a potent antibiotic, so with luck this will clear up within a few weeks.

Remember that tomorrow night is the concert. You'll also be able to buy the cd on

That's it for now. I'll be working on a paper tomorrow during the day and then we've the concert tomorrow evening. After the concert, a group of us will be going out to see "Saw 2" in the theater -- not a bad way to celebrate the Halloween weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Okay, there has been a proliferation of "ad posts" in my comment boxes. Since I don't want to read comments about Viagra or New Car deals, I've made it so that you have to put in some randomly generated security word in order to post a comment.

For Janet Lehane Cooney, let this serve as my response to your email: you don't need to be a member of this blog to leave a comment. Just type something in the comment box and it'll get posted. This goes for others, too.

I'm going to post the story written about me later this weekend. I want to see the final editorial changes before I put it up here.

Oh oh oh! I finished reading "The Magician's Nephew" by C.S. Lewis last night. I read the Chronicles of Narnia as a little boy and it's such a treat to allow myself to be transported back into my childhood by these stories. If you've not dones so, please do read them as they are just wonderful. One might hazard one of any number of allegorical interpretations, but I'd suggest reading it and allowing the text to speak to you. I'm going to start "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" this evening and I'll be sure to take it with me to my appointment tomorrow. Speaking of, please say a little prayer at 2:15, as that is when I see the physician.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Well, as you can see below I've posted several pictures. My dad likes the fact that I write captions for each of them...he seems to be more interested in the way that the picture is seen than in the picture itself. One could reasonably engage in a deep philosophical debate concerning the viewer's hermeneutical vantage point and whether the caption influences unduly the viewer's perception of the picture or whether it enhances the viewing experience. But that would be kind of boring, so we'll skip that discussion for now.

As the pictures show, the Detroit Marathon was held this past weekend. Eric Sundrup and Drew Marquard participated in it and managed to run 26.2 miles. It took them ~about~ 3 hours and 45 minutes to do so. I marvel at the fact that in the time it takes them to RUN 26.2 miles, I could have left Detroit, stopped at a Thruway Panera's for a leisurely lunch (stressing here leisurely) and I'd still make it home to Cleveland before they finished. Needless to say, I am very proud of their accomplishment and I count it as the highlight of my weekend that I managed to make my way into Downtown Detroit to support them as they ran.

Due to a number of recent experiences, I've begun to question in a critical way the approach people take to religious life. My litmus test for whether or not someone should be a priest is and has been this: If this person were hearing confession, could I send my friend Anne, my mother, my grandmother, or my brother to him? Would I go to him? I figure that this represents a pretty wide spectrum of personality types and, if I couldn't see this man as being in any way pastorally sensitive to the needs of one of these persons, I can't say that he'd have my endorsement to be a priest.

This is not meant to be exclusive - with modification, one could apply it to any type of position either within or without the church. Yet it points toward the affective dimension of religious life, that persons who "answer the call" are called to be of service to others, to be agents of mercy who accompany others in their times of need. Thus, if one can't relate to or empathize with a person who is struggling, I question their motivation for wanting to be a priest. Our role is less to "give" people the answers and more to empower others to find within themselves the resources by which they might come to know God better.

So, when I pray I don't do it idly or with my own self in mind. As I come to know God better and more deeply, that reflection (ideally) informs my actions and thoughts that I might share my experiences with others. Such sharing is not intended to set objective criteria of spiritual development by which others are to judge their progress. Instead (and again ideally), my reflections/ministry should help to uncover for others their own spiritual resources that will lead them deeper into prayer and service.

This is key: genuine prayer is generative, it is life-giving. Julian of Norwich, the 14th century mystic, writes in her Showings

"In all this I was greatly moved in love towards my fellow Christians, that they might all see and know the same as I saw, for I wished it to be a comfort to them, for all this vision was shown for all persons."

Julian's tremendous experience of God's grace led her to write out and reflect upon them for many years. But the purpose behind these revelations was to lead others in such a way that they might be "moved in love towards...fellow Christians." They weren't authority granting, nor did they set Julian apart from others. They served, rather, to draw her into loving solidarity with her fellow Christians.

Pretty nifty, huh? I should hope that the woman who gave me the finger while driving last night (driving 75mph on the highway wasn't fast enough for her) who had hanging from her rear view mirror a set of rosary beads will read Julian and spend more time with BOTH hands on the wheel.

Of worthy note: please remember that this Saturday is the Bob Scullin & Friends concert at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral @ 7:30 pm. I'll be playing at the intermission (with Jim Boynton and Bob Scullin) as well as on three songs during the second-half of the performance. All proceeds from the concert with benefit the Jesuit Refugee Service, so if you're around this weekend, please stop by. Admission is free (though a free-will offering is requested).

On a health note, I've not been feeling very well. In the past six months I've spent about eight weeks on antibiotics and, sadly, there has been little progress. So I'm seeing a specialist on Friday with the hopes that we can pin down the cause of my problem. So if you'll keep me in your prayers, I'd be most appreciative.

Oh! One last thing: I received an advance copy of the story that will be printed for the paper in Kansas City. I'll post it here after November 5th (that's its release date). It's a pretty long piece and makes me sound pretty good, so I'll be happy to share that with you. The paper is also including a link to this site, so it'll be fun to see who comes to visit thanks to the story.

Have you ever wondered what it looked like to watch a marathon? Well, this is it. You stand, you wait for a long time, you cheer briefly as your runner(s) whiz by, and then you move on to a new position. Actually, after departing from this position we went out to breakfast (Greektown). Eric Sundrup and Drew Marquard ran (Eric's first marathon) and we are all very proud of the fact that they did so well. Posted by Picasa

Eric and Drew running in the Detroit Marathon. Would you believe that really old people beat these two spry young men? Eric and Drew aver that "it's endurance! They train a lot." I suspect, though, that these two aren't the athletes they thought...especially as women and men as old as Grandma Hagan beat them!  Posted by Picasa

Drew and Eric after running 26.2 miles. How is it that they look happy? Posted by Picasa

I just found this photo: it's the first official group picture for the SMMSJ (Society of Mothers of Members of the Society of Jesus). From Right to Left: Adam's Mommy and Adam, Ryan and Ryan's Mommy, Drew's Mommy and Drew, and our Loyola House Den Mother, Denis. (The official roster as of today is: Loretta Marquard, SMMSJ; Nancy Loren, SMMSJ; and Michele Duns, SMMSJ) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

26 Years!

Well, according to the calendar, I'm now one-year older than I was yesterday. This is all well and good, I suppose, but I can't say that I feel much different. The only ostensible change is that I now have to tell people I'm "26" rather than "25" and, if my track record holds, it'll take 3-4 months for me to get that straight.

At the age of 26, I'll confess to feeling pretty immature. There are so many things out there that I haven't done or experienced yet! But it dawned on me today that, by the time she was my age, my mother had one child already and (give or take a few months) another one on the way. I'm barely responsible for myself and it's hard to imagine having kids.

I look to my friend Eric and his family - he's 28 and has a son, his wife is in medical school (finishing up) and he's earned two MA's in the last three years and now works full time. I can't help but marvel at the love he has for his wife and son and his ability to manage so many demands placed on his life. He and his wife work to provide for their young family, work to provide a loving and nurturing environment for their son.

This leads me to think about my Grandma Duns. I'm not exactly sure, but I suspect she was in her early fifties when I was born. My dad is now in his mid fifties and (unless my brother isn't telling us something) my parents still don't have grandchildren. I can't really see Bob and Michele as grandparents (at least not yet). I learned a lot from her and, as I get older, I see her through new lenses and realize that her imperfect humanity betrayed a very perfect love that she had for her family and others. I don't think it an exaggeration to say that she incarnated the essence of hospitality - she was a living neon light that cried out "All are Welcome!"

I miss my grandmother and my family and friends. I keep in contact with them, of course, but it's not the same as being with them. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote that "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) and on this, my birthday, I'd like to acknowledge those persons who have given me life by their witness and companionship. I am the man I am today because of my parents and siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, Tim Wintour and Christie Varga and Eric Abercrombie and Jimmy Menkhaus, my fellow Jesuits, Anne Hall and John Cunniffe and Mary Bryan, Tom Hastings and Tom Byrne and Tom McCaffery, Ben Fiore and Joan Nuth and Abba Gray and Ed Peck, Michael and Brian and Mary Ellen English, and so so so many others. This is the cloud of witnesses that have given me life, that have made my life worth living and have helped to love me into the person I am today. Birthdays shouldn't celebrate one person as though he or she were an isolated monad; they should, rather, celebrate those persons who, in surrounding the person whose birth we commemorate, have given him or her life.

This day also marks the Feast of the North American Martyrs. In light of what I've been saying, I might make the suggestion that martyrdom is not reserved for those who die bloody deaths. A fellow student recently remarked that such "Red Martyrdom" was the most perfect of martyrdom. I can understand what he's saying, but I don't agree. Tradition has a "White Martyrdom" that I think is the complement to giving one's life (literally) for a cause.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was certainly a martyr. In true prophetic fashion, he "could not not speak for God." The unfettered message of the Gospel thrust him on the timbers of the cross where he met his end in a hail of bullets while celebrating the Eucharist.

This is a jarring image and one that should shock us out of complacency. It makes the news. It makes movies.

But what of the woman who, day in and day out, goes to visit her aged mother in a nursing home and over time watches the woman who loved her into life slowly slip closer and closer towards the horizon of death? What of the father who cradles his son when the diagnosis of Leukemia is delivered, the father who is able to pray nothing more than, "Not him, God! Me! Let it be me!"? What of the aged woman who has lost many family members but has prayed resolutely, has doubted strongly, but continues to cast herself into the embrace of the crucified Christ?

These are not news stories. These will not make movies and, barring the rare exception, none will be canonized. But is any one of them less a martyr, is any one of them who surrenders to the mystery of suffering, of the humdrum of daily life, of a life in service to others, is any one of them not a witness when such actions are undertaken due to the inspiration of the Gospel?

I gave the homily last year and my closing line was "Death is not the cause of martyrdom, it is the consequence." I still believe this. Each of us faces death on a day-to-day basis. Countless little deaths abound, but these add up. The deaths of parenting, of loving, of working, of praying. Each of these inscribes in time and space a testimony of witness, a chronicle of a life lived in response to and promotion of the Gospel.

I'm glad my birthday is on this feast day. I can celebrate those who have given me life and those around me who testify to the life I might aspire to lead their daily witness, their daily martyrdom.

Monday, October 17, 2005

My new "action pose" with my accordion. This is the picture that will be used in an upcoming newspaper story about my Jesuit vocation.  Posted by Picasa

Watching the horror flick "High Tension" at Omena. As you can see, there was much tension with some of us. Posted by Picasa

Yes, Ryan can play football.  Posted by Picasa

Enjoying a chili dinner at Omena Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Return to Omena

Well, it's been two months since my last vacation, so I think I'm due for a fall holiday. Tomorrow, we'll be heading back up to Omena for the weekend (Friday-Sunday). This is a good thing - I could really use a break from math books! Besides, it'll be so nice to return to Omena to see the beautiful colors of the leaves.

It's funny to think that it's already time for midterms at UDM. In some ways, it's as though the semester just began. If I weren't so tired, I think I'd be more shocked that it's already the middle of October. For that matter, I turn 26 next Wednesday (October 19th, Feast of the North American Martyrs). I can remember my 13th birthday pretty well, so it's sobering to think that I'm twice as old now as I was then. I can actually remember my 10th birthday, too, but I don't know what it was that was significant about that birthday except, maybe, that I moved into a double-digit age bracket.

I may have mentioned this before, but I'm too lazy to look at my blog log. John Carroll University's Alumni magazine is doing a story about its recent alums who have joined the Society of Jesus - John Shea, Patrick Gilday, Chris Staab, and me. We're going to have our pictures taken this weekend (action poses in the leaves or on the dock) for the magazine. I also have to have my picture taken for the Irish paper in Kansas City that is running a story about the journey an Irish musician had to take to become a Jesuit. They should be fun.

Ok, I'm off to make sure that we were able to tape this week's episode of SMALLVILLE. This is a really great show (hey, I don't have much of a life any more!!) and I'm glad there are quite a few of us who appreciate the deep and searching plots of the show. Yeah, I'm still a boy at heart...a dweeby boy, to be sure, but a boy nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Believe it or not, this isn't really a posed picture. I was enraptured by the glory of this ice cream parlor (found in Cincy). They make the best dang chocolate sodas! Posted by Picasa

Giving a talk on Entrance Day. Posted by Picasa

Group Shot after miniature golf.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

CD Release (Part II)

The CD And It's So Clear will be released on September 29th. If you've tried to buy it online, it's not yet on so you'll have to check back in two weeks or so. You may, however, pre-order it by calling the Province office at the number listed below.

Betsy or Agnes: 1-800-445-1621

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pumpkin Pancakes

Well, if something was going to get me to post this weekend...

Yep, I tried a new recipe: PUMPKIN PANCAKES.

Now, before you go thinking "Geez, he's gone whacko" [too late for that] let me hasten to say that these were really quite delicious. We had a Candidates Weekend (men who are interested in joining the Society of Jesus come and spend a weekend with us and, following liturgy on Sunday, we have a nice brunch for them.) so Drew Marquard (my usual co-chef along with Denis Weber who, sadly, was away this weekend) and Mike Singhurse and I prepared the brunch. If you'd like to try this recipe, go to and look it up. As I keep threatening to do, if I can get around to updating the Recipe site I'll put my interpretation of this recipe on there.

In other news, things are going well here with me. I was glad to hear from my old friend Dianne Alaimo who was a fellow grad student at John Carroll. She left a message for me in the comment box and also sent me a very funny email which I think I'll post right now, since I have it available:


1. Summarize Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae in three succinct sentences. You may use your Bible.

2. St. Martin of Tours, Pope Clement VII and Karl Barth were not contemporaries. Had they known each other, how might the history of the Reformation have turned out differently?

3. Define a moral system that satisfies Liberals, Conservatives, Moderates, and the entire population of Ancient Rome, ca. 3 BCE.

4. Memorize the Bible. Recite it in tongues.

5. Imagine you have the stigmata. Would it affect your productivity at work? Would you still be admitted into fine restaurants? Would it be covered by your medical insurance, or should it constitute a pre-existent condition?

6. What would it mean to be eternal, co-eternal, and non-existent all at once?

7. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine of Hippo decide to rob a bank. The note to the teller is 1,200 pages long, not counting footnotes, complete with a promise of damnation if the teller does not accept immediate Baptism. In the middle of the heist, they engage in an extended debate as to whether or not the money really exists.

Are they committing a mortal or a venial sin?

8. Speculate on what the current status of salvation history might have been if Abraham had just stayed in Ur.

For those of you who are wondering, this is *VERY* much like my time at JCU where we debated esoteric points and engaged in intellectual agonistics that we might ascend to the heights of the academy.

Actually, our debates in grad school usually revolved around whether we wanted the "Red Dry" or "Sangria" at the pizza parlor or whether we wanted a full or half bottle of our chosen wine.

I have some pictures from Vow Weekend that I'll try to get up later this week.

Yeah, so that's all the news I've got. I've been pretty tired and sore but I think my medical malady is beginning to clear up. Teaching has been going pretty well and, it seems, I might one day make a pretty good math teacher. It's tough going, but I'm glad to have this opportunity even though it is SO MUCH WORK!!! Ah well, I'd have used the "spare time" on silly pursuits otherwise, like pleasure reading or developing new rice-krispie treat recipes.


Monday, October 03, 2005

CD Release!!

This first portion of the post is brought to you by Province Update which is a newsletter for Jesuits of the Detroit Province:

Father Bob Scullin, SJ (the provincial of the Detroit Province) recently recorded his first CD entitled And It's So Clear. The CD contains 14 songs written by Bob and performed by a number of artists, including yours truly. I provide the tin whistle and accordion accompaniment for the song "Ellis Island." While there are no jigs or reels on this CD (we'll have to wait until I record my own for that kind of music!!) I think listeners will enjoy Bob's creativity and song-writing ability as well as the musical stylings of a number of talented musicians.

Proceeds from the CD are slated to benefit the Jesuit Refugee Services. You can order it online at or you can contact Betsy or Agnes at the Detroit Province Office at 1-800-445-1621.

Now that the commercial is over, let us returned to our usual broadcast.

It seems that I've made yet another cyber friend - Colleen from

I'm glad that she appreciates my humor, and I am glad that she has seen a shift in my writing over the last year. As the posts of the recent month have probably indicated, I've been (I think) maturing gradually. I'm not apt to delete my former posts, but I think they betray a sense of my own enthusiasm and silliness that, while not necessarily gone, has certainly been transformed over time. I still think that many of the things that I wrote a year ago are pretty funny, but I don't know that I'd write them again. To be sure, there are times I wish terribly to write something on here but have to check myself lest I say something incendiary or totally obnoxious! Anyway, it's good to know I have another reader...I just wish more people would sign my guestbook and let me know what they think!!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sundry things

Well, let me tell you: you need to go to and download the recipes I mentioned on Wednesday. They are SO GOOD! The meal was a big hit here at Loyola House and I suspect they'd go over well anywhere. Preparing the meal for seventeen men and one woman was relatively inexpensive...about $5.00 per person is my estimated cost. Of course, we had some things around the house that I was able to make use of rather than having to buy them. The real expenses were the chicken stock, gorgonzola cheese, and arugula. Otherwise, it was pretty inexpensive.

On a more sober note, the same medical malady that afflicted me back in April has returned with the same painful symptoms. I'm going onto my second week of antibiotics and, sadly, they don't seem to be helping. The only consolation is that they pain is more chronic and less acute, so I'm getting used to it...but it does make sleeping pretty difficult. The doctor gave me a prescription for pain medicine but, as it seems to be my medical habit, I had a strange and, well, hallucinogenic reaction to the medicine so I'll not be taking it again any time soon.

Quick story: several years ago I was brought to the emergency room late one summer's night during the middle of the West Nile Virus outbreak. I was sweating profusely and was in tremendous pain -- not good signs, normally! Well, the doctor gave me an IV of Torridol to ease the pain.

The week I fell ill I had been reading Peter Brown's biography of "St. Augustine of Hippo." Well, didn't I hallucinate that a gang of Chinese people were trying to cut off my fingers in order to complete a statue of St Augustine! I mean, it's a totally rational dream of sorts, though as I write this it explains why I have a lingering fear of egg rolls.

Anyway, the point of the story is that painkillers make me KRAZY.

SO that's my update. Nothing too earth shattering. I graded the Algebra tests that I gave on Thursday and I must say that I'm pretty happy with the results...I hope the scores suggest both that I'm teaching and that they're learning!

Oooh, one more thing, I guess. We have a candidate weekend October 7-9. I'm going to be preparing the brunch and I'm thinking that we need to branch out in new directions. We've had quite a few novel dishes introduced, but if anyone has some fun suggestions I'd love to hear them. It'll be Drew and I for sure (Denis won't be here this weekend, thus killing the Blessed Trinity of Brunch) and hopefully one of the other guys will answer the call to join us as we prepare a sumptuous feast for our guests. More on the menu later this week!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Office Hours

Well, I just arrived at UDM to begin office hours. Since there's a test tomorrow, I expect that at least a few students will stop by to seem me for help; I also have an appointment at 1:00 with a student, so I'm glad that I'll have some social interaction during this period. It gets lonely in this office!

A major SHOUT-OUT to Mother Nancy Loren, SMMSJ [no, not a religious least not yet! SMMSJ = Society of Mothers of Members of the Society of Jesus] for sending us some very delicious cakes this week. We've pretty well worked our way through the Pineapple Not-Upside Down Cake. Most delightful - so moist and, well, DELICIOUS. One caveat, though: I love pineapple and must confess to making a pretty mean pineapple upside down cake of my own, but Nancy's recipe has encouraged me to learn a new recipe to share with others.

Speaking of recipes: I know, I keep threatening to update the recipe site. Well, I really will just as soon as I make something worthy of posting. This Friday I'll be making:

Fried Gorgonzola Cheese Balls for an Arrugala Salad
Tomato and Prosciutto Soup
Crusty Italian Bread
Lemon Muffins

These are all recipes found on and have as their source Giada DeLaurentis, who I think is the best and most accessible chef on that show. Easy on the eyes and tantalizing to the tongue (her food! her food!) I find it easy to follow her recipes and enjoy the variety of dishes she prepares.

On a non-food note: I did manage to create a math test for my algebra students. It's so strange to be on the other side of test-creation for a math exam...I guess I thought math teachers had crystal balls that they consulted to find the most difficult and obscure problems to put on a test; I have come to realize, however, that they just consult vast test-banks for problems to slap on the exam.

Never, in one-hundred years, would I have dreamed that I'd be a math teacher. It's still hard to believe, but I'm being honest when I say that it is both HORRIBLY DIFFICULT and TERRIBLY REWARDING. Math is an area many people struggle with and, if I can help students to acknowledge and work through their fear, then I guess I've done my job. My fear is going to be grading these exams, though....

So that's where things are at. I absolutely LOVE my course on the "History of Christian Spirituality" and I can say for Dr Patricia Cooney-Hathaway something that I can say of very few professors I've had: when I leave her class, I want to pray. She facilitates an encounter with the material in a way that is profound and's a great grace to study under her. Health Care Ethics is going well, too; I sort of wish it were exclusively for graduate students (the discussion might be elevated) but I do feel that I'm gaining a grasp of the material.

Oh! I was interviewed for a piece being prepared by John Carroll University's magazine (So was fellow novice Chris Staab, who is also an alum of JCU). This is in addition to the story being printed in a local Irish newspaper in Kansas City. When I have more details on that, I'll post them - but they just sent a request for "action shots" of my playing the accordion. This article contains the story of how the Rock Star Life of an Irish accordion player led him to the Society of Jesus.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Another use for cooking

This weekend I've been working on my application for the Clinical Pastoral Education offered through Loyola Medical Center in Chicago. It's a laborious process requiring both a personal history and a spiritual autobiography.

To be honest, I find it terribly difficult to start autobiographical essays. Sure, you could start with "As I look back upon my life" or "I was born in the usual way" or something cliche, but who'd want to do that?

So, I took a totally different and bizzarre approach:

"My life is akin to the recipe for Cajun Jambalaya..."

The entirety of my autobiography is held together by the controlling image of a Jambalaya recipe. It may sound strange, but it actually appears to have worked pretty well: my family as the stock and meat base, Irish music as the spice, twenty-five years of cooking time, and various persons tossed into my life (Enyak, Anne Hall, Abba Gray, Joan Nuth, etc.) like vegetables. So my bio accomplishes two things in that it tells my story and, if the reader is attentive, provides the skeletal outline to one fine recipe for jambalaya.

It's pretty quiet here at the house. Adam and Drew - two of my partners in crime - are away for the weekend and the first-year men are visiting Midland. I wrote quite a bit yesterday and today and plan to prepare my week's lessons tomorrow. In fact, I'm giving my first math test on Thursday, so I'll have to start working on that pretty soon.

It's hard to believe that it's already the end of September. I must admit to being happy about this. As much as I love teaching, I am really looking forward to doing CPE this winter and I'm completely psyched about living in Chicago. Not that I'm necessarily in a rush to leave Detroit, but it'll be nice to be close to my sister Torrey (who lives in Chicago) and, hopefully, to get involved in the Chicago Irish music scene.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Well, there's not much to say this morning. It's been a busy week and I'm really tired. A lot of grading, teaching, reading, etc.. Hopefully it'll be a quiet weekend and I'll be able to get some work done.


-if anyone happens to have good "science fair" project suggestions for a 6th grader, please post them in the comments box. Brian English is looking for one and asked if I could help; as the 6th grade is a long way from my mind and as I'm more into science at a smaller scale (cells and tissues rather than whole organisms) I'm pretty useless. So any ideas?

I'm heading now to mass. I just wanted to post in order to give the lunching members of SMMSJ something to talk about!

Monday, September 19, 2005


More News!

I'll be playing the Mid-American Oireachtas this year. I'm very excited to have been asked to play there and am looking forward to getting back to the world of Irish dancing!

So many changes!

Well, as you can see, there's been some more changes here. I grew tired of the old format so I selected a new one. I also procured a new "hit counter" to tell me how many people stop by to visit.

Also, in the links section, you'll see a new link to the blog of my psuedo-cousin Justin Petitt. Take a gander and read of his recent European exploits.

A few quick remarks:

Thanks - belatedly - to KEVIN HANEY who wanted public recognition for delivering my birthday cake last year. I could have sworn that I thanked him on the blog but, since I'm hopeful that he'll drop another one off this year (October 19th, we eat dinner ~5:30!!) I'll thank him again.

That's it. I'm going to review some material for my course in "Health Care Ethics" and then I have class tonight - yeah! We'll be discussing "The Life of Antony" and Ignatius of Antioch's Letter to the Romans. Not that any of you will care about this, per se, but I thought that I might as well mention it anyway.

Friday, September 16, 2005


It's been kinda hard to post this week as I'm now into the full swing of taking/teaching my classes while keeping the day-to-day schedule of Loyola House.

Spiritual Thought for the week:

This week we celebrated two feasts: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It's interesting that they fell back to back. I'll share with you why in a moment.

When Jesuit theologian Michael Buckley teaches his course on St John of the Cross (known for the phrase "Dark Night of the Soul") he begins the course by reading the "Living Flame of Love." This is notable only insofar that, as St John intended it, the Living Flame of Love would be read only after the reader has worked through "The Dark Night of the Soul" and "The Ascent of Mount Carmel" (Note: This is Carmel - the religious mountain - and not the creamy delicious CARAMEL. If there were a Mount Caramel, I'd certainly live there). The rationale is simple: were he to begin with the Dark Night, it is feared that the reader would become discouraged and disheartened (it's tough going!). So, for Buckley, the idea is to give the student the chance to see the end result before embarking on the long journey through the text. I suppose we do this all the time: it's commonplace to have the Freshman team watch the Varsity team practice to show them what their own hard work and labor will result in.

So this week's feasts do much the same for us: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross draws us into the triumph and joy of of the cross, the ultimate victory over death and sin. And yet, as Thursday's readings show (Luke's Gospel with the Blessing of Simeon), this triumphant celebration is hard-fought and is born only through great suffering and discipleship. One feast bring our goal into sight; the other feast brings us into the reality of lived discipleship. Indeed, we often see Mary as the first disciple and Simeon's blessing to her acts as the curse that befalls all those who wish to live as disciples: to love and follow Christ is to expose your heart to great peril and, in your vulnerablility, your heart will be pierced. To follow Christ in love and out of love will bring each of us into direct and painful conflict, conflict that too often will inflict deep and lasting wounds. We are willing to subject ourselves to this agony not because we're necessarily efficient at it or because we're good at it...we do it because we feel we've been called to it and, living out authentically our call, we feel that we unite our sufferings with that of the Cross and that these sufferings will be also be redeemed, will be transformed, and that our broken and battered bodies will be resurrected in triumph.

Too often I get frustrated with the Church's calendar: it always seems that we're celebrating something! Is it possible that there is that much to celebrate? Yes, I am beginning to realize, there is. And this week draws us into something of the genius of the the Feast Days - they speak to our pilgrim lives, acting as waves that bear us to the crest that we might see the glorious shore that awaits us on the horizon and then, as we slip back into the tumultuous waters, immerse us in the day-to-day struggles of discipleship, of a reality that seems always to threaten us with drowning.

So we might pause for a moment to think about how our hearts have been engaged with the world, about how in answering our call to discipleship we have been challenged and threatened and, in no small way, wounded. Allow yourself to feel this pain, yet do not bow down to it and worship it...this is a temptation, you know! Instead, allow yourself to feel hurt and to feel sorrow and to feel your eyes lift up to see in the distance the figure of the cross, a figure that seems to draw closer to you and yet seems to recede from your grasp. And do not think that you are alone in this...that is yet another temptation! Instead turn your head to see those around you struggling, gasping for breath, straining just to stay afloat or to hang on for just a moment more. See how your neighbor struggles - her problems may be very different from yours - but still see how she labors under them. Though the content of our struggles may be different, we are united in the act of struggling and in the act of journeying together. We journey forward - together - as a people who feel they've heard a small voice call out to them, calling to them in the muck and mire of their humdrum the blissful moments of new the agony of death. We've heard an invitation, a call forward, and we've answered - sometimes in spite of ourselves - with a trembling "here I am" and often reluctant footsteps that lead us step-by-step as a pilgrim people.

I'm getting annoyed with myself because I don't really set out to write these rambling posts when I sit down. It just seems that it's another way of praying - albeit a very public way that openins me to the same critique as the Pharisees when Jesus counseled his listeners to pray in private! I suppose some people do read what I write - I get a few comments (usually the SMMSJ members) and a few much-appreciated emails. Perhaps people come to this site looking for pictures or recipes (I will try to post more soon. I've been busy!). But in a way this blog is my journal, a diary, a confessional. I'd be happy if more people responded, more because I'm interested in people's thoughts and because it lets me know that people at least *read* what I wrtie rather than looking at the silly pictures I post!!

In case I don't write again for a few days, I hope ya'll have a nice weekend. I'm going to make up four quizzes tomorrow, read the "Life of Antony" written by Athanasius, and then tomorrow evening Denis and Drew and I are going to the Detroit Symphony. Sunday will be more work coupled with a trip to the University of Detroit-Mercy Jesuit community where we'll be having dinner.


Saturday, September 10, 2005


One thing I forgot to mention:

I signed a contract yesterday for my encyclopedia entry on "The Jesuit Volunteer Corps" to be included in the soon-to-be-printed ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE. It's not necessarily a big deal (it's one of MANY entries) but it's kind of cool to see your name in print.

Friday, September 09, 2005

New Pictures

Just a quick post to get a few more pictures up on the net. I'm not much for taking photos when I travel, so I'm glad that Adam has a photo-fetish and insists on capturing EVERY minute of our exploits on film.

These pictures are from our trip to Mackinac Island (almost a month ago!). Actually, they're from our trip back to Omena after spending two days on the island.

I'm not above "inside jokes" on this site, so Abba Enyak -- these are the pictures I was talking about!

Not much else going on. I spent the day working on class materials for my two courses (including finding homework sets and making up some quizzes) and going to the gym. I'm now feeling pretty sleepy so I'm going off to bed - only to rise tomorrow by the awful hour of 9:00 to beging the dreaded HOUSE JOBS! If I get up early enough, perhaps I'll run to Einstein's for a cup of delicious coffee...

Have a good weekend!

Four of us in front of the WORLD'S LARGEST CRUCIFIX. If you listened to her complain, you'd think my mother carried the world's biggest cross. Now we know: it's actually located in Northern Michigan. Posted by Picasa

People wonder if I really do pray. Well, here's photographic evidence that I'm praying very hard. This is St Peregrine... Posted by Picasa

St. Peregrine is the *LAST* Saint you want to mess with! Actually, he is the patron saint of persons living with cancer.  Posted by Picasa

So, on our way home from Mackinac we decided to stop by the NUN DOLL MUSEUM. Yes, such places do exist.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

First Day of Teaching!

As the chalk dust settled at 12:35 yesterday afternoon, I inclined my head and strained my ears: there was no weeping or gnashing of teeth. In fact, it seemed that everything went pretty well. No one got hurt and, it seems to me, the students felt much more comfortable upon leaving the class than they felt when they entered.

I remember *hating* math when I was in grade school and even for the first two years of high school. Luckily, as I said in an earlier post, I had a teacher who taught me how to learn (in all subjects) by encouraging a disciplined and organized approach to studies. So I'm not shocked at all to hear the students' horror stories about crazy math teachers and reasons they are afraid of numbers. With any luck, I'll be able to do for them what one great teacher did for me.

Today I change roles (and clothes!!) and assume the posture of the student rather than the teacher. I'm taking a course in "Health Care Ethics" this semester and, as it's a field I'm not terribly familiar with, I'm excited to explore new material. One of my interests academically and pastorally is the area of death and dying and, given the current attention focused on Terri Shiavo, it'll be of great interest and importance to explore the issues surrounding such sensitive topics.

Besides, it gives me yet another chance to argue about something.

Oh! Not that it is particularly funny, but I would like to share this anecdote from yesterday:

I woke up and put my clerics (shirt, black pants, sensible black shoes, etc.) and, since it was cold, wanted something more to put on. Well, I'm not much for black although, as luck would have it, two weeks ago I liberated two black cardigans from Colombiere (the Jesuit retirement home in Clarkston, MI). They're pretty snazzy and, to my mind, were most appropriate as they belonged to the now deceased Mal Carron who had been president of (then) the University of Detroit during the Detroit race riots. Well, you know the saying: Something old (Mal's cardigan) and something new (my new clerical shirt that my mom bought me).

So, as an ice-breaker, I asked the students to introduce themselves and then to tell us something interesting and unique that pertained to them. I went first and, after introducing myself, I thought it'd be funny to tell them about the sweater I was wearing. Big mistake! I think they will now learn mathematics more out of fear of me than of love for math as they were HORRIFIED by the idea that I would wear, as one student put it, "some dead dude's clothes." This reaction was not so different from my parents' reaction Christmas morning when my mother commented that "Oh, Ryan, you look cute. Where'd you get that nice red vest?" Imagine her shock when I told her I had gotten it from the common line and that it had been "donated" to the common closet of clothes by a recently deceased Jesuit priest. Needless to say, we were at the GAP the next evening!!

I thought this exchange with the students to be rather funny. I really liked Mal and it actually gave me a sense of support and assurance that I was brining something of his back to UDM on my first day of teaching. Besides, it's a perfectly good sweater and as my mentor Fr Fiore used to say, it's just good sense not to let such nice clothes go to waste. Furthermore, as I far as I can tell, taking a vow of poverty does not mean that I've taken a vow of poor taste and, to be sure, Mal had pretty good taste in clothes!

Yep, so that's my wierd and bizzare story for the day. I'm now off to the YMCA to lift weights (and put them down again).

Friday, September 02, 2005


I just wanted to thank everyone who emailed/called/commented on my last post. At the risk of feigned humility, I must say that it was not my intention to do any soul-searching the other night. Rather, I wrote what I felt and found that, much to my delight, my own experiences have proved and are proving to be helpful to others.

You'll notice that I've changed the name of my blog. One year after its inception, it seems that there aren't very many letters "TO" Ryan and, although there are a number of posts "from" Ryan, none of them are in letter format. Since my own self-image has changed this last year - captured most aptly as by "Wounded Knower" - I thought I'd change the name of my blog to be in keeping with what I see as my own evolution.

Now don't be afraid. I'll still post snippy remarks about my sister Hagan (Oh, she's not off the hook by ANY means!) and rant about how it took my parents TWENTY YEARS to replace my Paddington Bear that my brother murdered by putting him on the stove. But I hope to invite you into my prayer, my struggles, my joys as I continue this journey. As I did several weeks ago, I invite comments/questions.

I'm heading out now to have lunch, finish my course syllabi, and then prepare for Mike and Brian who are coming to have a music lesson this Sunday. We have to get ready for the's just EIGHT months away!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Shrinking Wardrobe!

After consultation with my superior and with my new boss at UDM, it has been suggested that I wear clerics to work each day. By clerics I mean, of course, the universally recognized black shirt with the white tab at the throat. While pants are a matter personal discretion (what doesn't go with black??) I reckon that I'll stick to black slacks, although I will admit to owning a pair of kickin' pin-striped pants that are both comfy and stylish. While I mourn the curtailment of my clothing options, I do think it's kind of cool that I won't have to fret over "What am I going to wear?"

I'm wracking my brains in an attempt to find something funny/witty/insightful to post this evening. Sadly (and par for my course) I've not much to offer. We're getting back into the daily grind here at Loyola House so there's a regularity to the schedule and our new guys seem to be settling in very well. It's hard to believe that a whole year has transpired!

Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I had chosen a different path than the one on which I currently tread. I suspect that I'd have gone off to do my PhD someplace and I'd be living in a nice little loft apartment with a home theater system (tuned to FoodTV) and cable internet. There's something very neat and clean - almost idyllic - about this fantasy. What is more, I'd probably have continued to play Irish music with the reckless abandon that marked my life earlier...and so I can well imagine having a life full of a lot of "stuff" but lacking the substance that it does now.

This is not to say that I think that the lives led by others are lacking in substance! Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm envious of my friends who are married and those who have started families (Enyak!!). There's a tender part of my heart that does sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a daddy, but it'd be my luck that I'd have a kid just like me who'd be hyper-sarcastic and would make fun of me or, even worse, I'd have a kid that was the essence of goodness and kindness and I wouldn't be able to relate to him!

Seriously, though, this year has both challenged and reshaped me and my worldview. came into the Society thinking that I knew *Exactly* what I wanted to do with my life as a Jesuit. Now, I take great joy in knowing that I want to be a Jesuit and great consolation in being able to confess that I haven't any clue as to what I want to do! As my relationship to Christ grows through prayer and experience, I'm finding that the "what" question of my life is fading and the "who" is ascending in importance, such that it is often with awe that I look at myself and think, "Is it really possible that I am called to be a Jesuit?" Is it possible that I might live this life and that, in death, I might kneel for eternity along with Ignatius Loyola and Karl Rahner and Francis Xavier? What will it be like to bee able to great Rahner in the celestial court of heaven and thank him for guiding my head and heart and embrace him both as a student and as a brother?

Part of my growth this year has been an a growing awareness of a certain woundedness that is the result of a direct encounter with Christ through the Spiritual Exercises. A deep wound that resists healing, it has made me slow down in my pilgrimage and see things more clearly, to savor reality in new and different ways. It's a wound that seems to attract the dirt and grit of the day-to-day life; a wound that seeps an admixture of blood and tears as the sorrows and cares of the world are laid bare before me. But this very wound, an irruption of the battle-hardened flesh, has penetrated so deeply into my heart in such a way as to expose my humanity and it is in this - my weakness and vulnerability - that I seem to become and feel more human.

One of the exercises of the First Week of the "Spiritual Exercises" is to reflect on the sinfullness of the world. It is hard not to see how broken our world is - even a cursory glance at the nightly news indicates this. Indeed, as I write this two police cars are racing down Coolidge with their lights on. That night as I prayed over our world, I was distraught with the enormity of the problem and, as a single person, knew not how I might help mend this broken land. Heck, I could see immediately around me my own complicity in sin and its effects!

That night, I think I prayed for the first time in my life. I mean, I really prayed. My empty heart seemed to crack apart in my chest and as I stared out at the wild Atlantic Ocean I surrendered myself completely to the silence of the night and prayed. I prayed for the abused wife, the heroin addict contemplating whether to shoot up again or to find treatment, for the runaway, the homeless, the prostitutes, the AIDS victims...I prayed for all those who seemed to have been forgotten in the world, for all those who had no one to pray for them. I joined myself to them and experienced the re-creation of a new heart, a new sensibility, a new way of encountering Christ. I prayed out of an old heart and into a new one. The crushing pressure of sadness and doubt and fear and deafening silence gave way to the open expanses of a heart set free. And yet this was no gilded or flowery spiritual festival! I felt as my own the pain (of doubt, of anguish, of sadness, of isolation) felt by so many and yet I rejoiced in this pain, for I'd sooner feel pain than feel nothing at all.

This became the wound of knowledge, the wound of called discipleship. There is no astringent or analgesic for such a wound, no binding for such brokenness. There is only a limping gait of those who will walk such woundedness. Made deeper and more acute through prayer, I'm impelled out of the gate and into the world to do ministry as a Companion of Jesus - a Jesuit - and as such devote myself to the service of the Kingdom where such wounds become badges of those who are friends of and in the Lord.

Monday, August 29, 2005


So there are two new pictures on the site and it is my hope that folks will find the "old time" photo to be somewhat entertaining. We had fun taking it!

I received a nice email expressing thanks for my showing a very "human" face to my novitiate experience. This is good as it is my goal to show that religious life isn't nearly as mysterious and forbidding as some think. We're regular guys on fire to bring about God's kingdom...but that doesn't mean we can't have a good time doing it!

I picked up the textbooks I'll be using to teach my two math courses this semester. It's pretty daunting to be on the other side of the Math Desk!

One of the most important aspects of my early formation was the Grad-at-Grad document from St Ignatius High School. The ideal graduate at graduation was:

Intellectually competent
Open to Growth
Committed to doing justice

In taking on this new adventure of teaching math, I hope that I'm starting to integrate and put into practice these ideals. This is definitely a growing experience and one that is, at heart, motivated by my love of learning and my love of teaching...and my sincere desire to help others to grow as students. There's much more to be written of this, but I'm heading off to the YMCA (yes, I still go. How else could I explain my rippling physique??). I'll try to give you another update as I prepare my syllabus and lesson plan for the semester.


Picture of the Mustang Lounge on Mackinac. Jim, Tony, Ben, and I played music here during our visit to the island.  Posted by Picasa

Sometimes people wonder what Jesuit novices do for fun. Well, we dress up in funny costumes and pose for pictures! This picture (Adam, Ben, Ryan, and Drew) was taken earlier this month when we were visiting Mackinac Island.  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Moving on Up


I've a bit of an update for everyone about my semester. Initially, I had planned on facilitating a spiritual support group here in Detroit, but my well-laid plans were dashed today when I found out that the fellow who trains facilitators for the groups was leaving and would not be replaced until mid-October.


So, in God's own inimitable fashion, I will be doing something that most people - especially my parents - will gasp in horror and awe.

I, Ryan Duns, will be an Instructor for "Basic Math" and "Elementary Algebra" at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Me, a math professor!!!

This is funny because I was a terrible math student in high school. It took two EXCELLENT teachers to teach me how to learn math and, if I owe anyone thanks for the academic success I achieved later in my life, it is my junior year algebra teacher (Ms Gobel) who taught me how to learn. If I can offer to these students 10% of the quality she imparted to me, I will count myself blessed.

So how's that for irony? The kid who hated math class is now going to teach first-year students how to perform basic mathematical operations. I'm actually really excited, although I'll admit to being a bit nervous. The only thing I need now is to figure out:

1. How does Rahner relate to math?
2. Where is my calculator?
3. Where can I buy a sport coat with patches on the elbows?

Believe me, I'll keep you all posted on how this all goes. Pray for me...and for the students!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Prayers Needed!!

Okay, here we go:

Brian English, he who desires nothing more than to "live the life" will be an international star tomorrow morning. At 8:30 am, go to:

Brian will be the STARTING PITCHER!!

He will be in a red uniform sporting #4.

So please pray for Brian that he pitch a good game. Jim Shea, nSJ is praying for him this evening and that is a good thing as he knows everything about baseball and will be sure to let God know exactly what Brian needs for tomorrow. I'm ignorant of such things, so my prayers will be used to support Jim's prayers and to let God know that I'm keeping and eye out for Brian. Nancy, if you read this in time, use your vast prayer power to aide my student!!

I'm going to try to put more pictures up later this week.

Other news:

This week, I was appointed Beadle. The beadle is something of a coordinator, chosen from the novices, who acts as a liason between the novice director and the novices. I'm responsible for coordinating cars, assigning work crews, managing house jobs, making the superior breakfast (hehehe, only in his dreams!) and various sundry details.

This appointment, of course, occasions a Hagan story.

So on Monday, I call home to tell my family the good news that I am THE BEADLE. As luck would have it, my mother was away at the time so I told my father who, curiously, actually knew what the beadle was.

Apparently, he told Hagan about my appointment as Beadle and told her to let my mom know when Michelle came home from work.

So, here's the dialogue:

"Hey, Mom. Ryan called and told Dad that he's now the bug."

"The Bug? Hagan, what are you talking about?"

"Yeah, he called and said that he's now a bug or something."

"Hagan, do you mean he's the the Beadle?"


My mother called a bit later to tell me of this exchange.

Needless to say, I was pretty amused.

Okay, so that wraps it up for this fun-filled posting. I've asked for prayers (a good thing), given you an update (educational thing) and made fun of my sister (typical thing). It's now been a full day: I put up Roman Blinds in my bathroom, played Ultimate Frisbee, had a cookout, and went to Target for the 13th time this week (Yes, 13 times to Target -- in preparation for Entrance Day, we painted 9 rooms in the house and I was forever going to Target to buy supplies for the rooms and to Home Depot for more cans of paint).


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Note my pensive expression. No, it's not Rahner, it's a wine list! Posted by Picasa

Jesus walked on water, I am carried over it on a deck chair by a team of novices.  Posted by Picasa

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame