Monday, May 30, 2005


Just a quick note to wish Michael and Brian English an exuberant CONGRATULATIONS on their success at the Akron and Cleveland feiseanna.

Michael won the senior championship instrumental and also won the "Maureen McLaughlin Music Scholarship Award." This is an award given to the best overall performer in all of the music award I won two years in a row back in 1993 and 1994!! Brian tied for first with (from what I hear) an absolutely amazing fiddle player in the junior championship instrumental.

Such success means only one thing: they must be given more work to do! I'll spend my day (after I write and deliver a homily at 11:00 this morning) researching new and exotic tunes for them to learn.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Hey Folks,

I went through some pictures taken on my Wyoming journey and thought to post a few. So here they are!

Now, some may ask, "Ryan, it's Saturday. Why aren't you "living the life" or doing whatever it is that you do??

My answer: Because the infection that I thought was cured in Wyoming is still very much with me and currently being treated by antibiotics and, without my lovely painkillers, it's made walking more of a chore than I'd like to admit.

So, as I recuperate (AGAIN!) I'll work on assembling some more recipes for the site.

More to follow, to be sure!

My most dreaded foe and nemesis: the peacock. There were SIX of these beasts living in the TREE outside my window. Curse them all! Posted by Hello

Sister Teresa and I doing what we do best: making fun of others.  Posted by Hello

Fr Gene and I  Posted by Hello

A night out in Wyoming! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Home Sweet Home!

Hi Folks,

I'm now back in Detroit. It's hard to believe that I've been gone for two months - though at times it was difficult, the time in Wyoming certainly passed swiftly. I'm sad to leave many of the good people I met there, but it really is nice to be back in Detroit...I never fathomed how much I depend on Einstein Brothers for coffee!

After I've settled in and start to have all sorts of fun new experiences to report on, I'll be sure to update the blog. I doubt seriously whether I'll post again with the frequency seen over the last few weeks, but who knows - the writing bug may bite!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Gloaming Post

Since I just received another email about it, I want to offer some clarification about my recent post "In the Gloaming."

This post is not an indication that I'm leaving the Jesuits; in fact, anything could, right now, be further from the truth. It is more an indication of a conversion of sorts, perhaps even an epiphany, that offered a new sense of clarity and an enhanced vision of my own vocation.

Since my posts tend to be blithering by nature, I can see why some would interpret this, a much more serious post, as sounding the death knell of my foray into religious life. Rest assured that said knell has not sounded.

Why so many posts today? The receptionist is sick and, rather than watch FoodTV re-runs, I volunteered to fill in for her. All I've done is answer phones and read my book and answer emails, so I've plenty of time to ramble on here!

Special Studies

Many of us who know Jesuits became acquainted with them through Jesuit run educational institutions. I, for one, count as most influential those Jesuits who have been my teachers, mentors, and friends.

Many Jesuits go on after theology studies and ordination for "special studies" where they specialize in some area of study that interests them. One man may decide to write a dissertation on Karl Rahner, another on Whale Bone Scrimshaw, and still another on the fusion of taste horizons in each individual Pez candy. The options are unlimited.

I've toyed with the notion of being a Jesuit-chef. I'd love to go to cooking school and, provided that I don't lop off a finger cutting parsley (which I'm most apt to do) I think it'd be a wonderful profession. I think a proper meal is a wonderful expression of hospitality, a ministry that is most appealing to my sensibilities. And yet, I can't help but wonder if I might not make one hell of a bartender. Don't mis-interpret this: I wouldn't want to do it so that I could become a lush, but rather so that I could prepare wonderful tasting beverages that would, umm, help potential donors loosen the grip on their purses and wallets.

I'm not much of a drinker, really. I *LOVE* a nice pint of Guinness or a lovely glass of Dortmunder Gold (Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland makes it and it is FANTASTIC). I also enjoy a nice bottle of red wine from time to time. But I'm not much for the mixed drink - the ones I like are often deemed "too fruity" (both literally and pejoratively. I think, however, that I'd be willing to learn how to make mixed drinks and Margaritas, if only to be of service to my fellow pilgrims on this spiritual journey.

Besides, it'd be a total revolution for the Sacrament of Confession. How many bartenders already hear the confessions of patrons? I'd be taking the sacrament to the people themselves, insinuating myself into their very own environment. I'd be of the people, for the people!

Or, as it would likely happen, I would develop my own drinking problem and end up locked in my room plotting against the Amish and conspiring to take over FoodTV.


Oh, I forgot to make the request that people sign my guestbook. I don't know why, because I'll probably forget to read it, but I thought it'd be a nice addition to the site. It's at the bottom of the page.

Wake Up Call!

In general, I do not sleep in very late. As much as I like to get my eight hours of sleep in, it's not beyond my ken to settle for six hours a night. So, on Tuesday night when I went to bed at midnight, I figured that I would get *at least* six hours of sleep, if not seven or eight.

So imagine my surprise when, at 6:00 am yesterday morning, I was ripped from Slumber Land by the sound of GUN FIRE. GUN FIRE! I can't recall ever seeing a real loaded gun held by someone other than a police officer, and here I am, lying in bed, hearing a gun going off.

Drawing upon my warrior-like instincts, I did what any sensible person would do: I hid under the covers and hoped that my bedroom door wouldn't get kicked in. My time spent waiting in nervous anticipation was not done in silence; quite to the contrary, the peacock-sextet (there were seven, one has since been eaten by the owners) catterwald and made an awful commotion in the tree outside my window. *BAM* came the second shot and then, silence.

Feeling braver, I emerged from my den of blankets, knelt upon the bed, and pulled the shades up ever so slightly. Dressed in a worn jacket and jeans, our grizzly neighbor was standing about 20 feet from my window with a shotgun raised to his eye and, as the ostensible target, was a big black dog. *BAM* and the dog went down. Having been thus roused, I decided that I needed a cup of Wyoming's finest coffee, available only at Burger King.

Moral of the story: if you are a dog that is foraging for food anywhere near St Stephens Mission, DO NOT eat, or attempt to eat, the rabbits that our neighbor raises in order to feed his pet bobcat. Yep, a pet bobcat. I'm happy with a pet rock, and I live next to a pet bobcat. Only in Wyoming.

Many novice go on their Short Experiment and come home with tales about how they saved the world, aided old women, taught English to immigrants, accompanied the dying into "the light," counseled students, provided legal aide, or whatever fun and interesting things they might have done. I didn't do any of this, but I can at least claim to have been woken up by my neighbor defending the lives of his rabbits - the same rabbits he'd later feed to his bobcat - from a marauding canine.

Only in Wyoming, folks. Only in Wyoming.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Go for Two!

I have received arguably the funniest email from a person who happens to be a charter member of the SMMSJ Club (Society of Mothers of Members of the Society of Jesus). Of course I will allow her to remain anonymous, but I have to share this with everyone:

What the Gilday!!!!! You compare the bite of a fire ant to blessing yourself with holy water and then follow that up by comparing black widow spiders to Irish Brides! Tell me, when you were divesting yourself of your personal belongings prior to entering, did you let go of your heart and soul?? Do you have shekels in your pocket but an empty chest cavity??

I don't care if your holy water sizzles; you just can't go around besmirching the goodness of Irish Brides.

Now as anyone who reads my blog knows full well, I have only the utmost love for the Irish and their brides, even though I don't have one of my own. But I can only write out of experience, or in this case, my father's experience of being married to my mother.

Note, however, the attentiveness of this email. She utilizes the wondrous neologism "What the Gilday" which is a sure sign she's totally hip and with the times. "What the Gilday!" will someday replace "Friggin I'm sayin yo" and "Bling Bling" in the common parlance. Also, the emphasis is less on my own unholiness than on any attempt to blight the wonders of the Irish. Since it is impossible to subtract or detract from infinite glory, I've no fear that I've impugned the reputation of the Irish, or of their brides.

Now, if you read the comments posted to my site, you'll see that I've been picked up for syndication by the New Orleans Vocation Director. This is hysterical. I think this puts me one step closer to my newfound goal of being a public intellectual, or a public spectacle, or something like that. I'm tickled that people actually read and enjoy my blog and I'd love to invite anyone who'd wish to do so to write and ask questions about novice life in general. This is not to say that the focus of my blog will change in the least - I'll still continue to ramble and to make outrageous and wholly unfounded accusations against the Amish, but if someone wants to know something, he/she should feel free to ask.

Oh! I will try to post the most *AMAZING* bruschetta recipe on "Jesuit Recipes" later this evening. Made with sourdough bread, it is like eating the flesh of an angel. It's quite remarkable, so I'll share that with everyone later. I may have promised to post a bruschetta recipe a few weeks ago, but I've found this latest one to be even better, so my failure to post earlier will be made up for by this contribution.

Speaking of "Jesuit Recipes" I need some sort of closing line to finish my posts with. Martha has "It's a good thing" and Mr. Food has "oooh, it's so good." While it'd be fun to close with "you won't find this served in hell" or "Amen," maybe someone could suggest another closer for recipes.

It's just a thought.


Fire Ants

It's a cold and drizzly day today, so I've more than my usual amount of time to kill - so I'll update the blog!

The last few days have actually been pretty warm and nice, so I've been taking some lovely walks during the day. On one of my recent walks, I stumbled - literally - on a huge colony of FIRE ANTS! It was like something out of a movie, watching them swarm out of their home in order to defend it.

Now, I'm not normally one to do such things, but I picked up an ant and let him bite me. You know what? It hurt. A lot. I understand why they are called fire ants. It was a burning sensation that was eerily reminiscent of the burning I feel when I bless myself with holy water.

I also saw two black widow spiders. I did not let one of them bite me, but I did watch each one for a long time. They are really beautiful creatures, even if they *are* like Irish brides who court their suitors and then, when they've had their fun, they consume the wayward beau.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's written/emailed/commented on my blog while I've been out here in Wyoming. It has been so encouraging to hear from people and has made some of the more tedious days infinitely more tolerable. As I prepare to leave Wyoming on Saturday, I find that I've changed (physically, thanks to swelling, and spiritually, thanks to prayer and testing) in a number of ways: greater sense of vocational purpose, a new degree of patience, an acute awareness of my own limitations in terms of needs from community and living conditions.

As things wind down here (did they ever really wind up?) know that I keep all of you in my prayers and that I look forward to returning to Detroit in just a few days. With luck I'll see many of you in the weeks and months to come.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

In the gloaming...

Alice Elliot Dark wrote a story entitled "In the Gloaming" about a young man who returns home to die of AIDS. The beauty of the story is captured in those fleeting moments of transition between day and night, that period of time where all the world is bathed in a heathery light, known as the gloaming. As day gives way to night, all the world is transformed, even if but for a few moments. As the man's life ebbs, the transition of life to death is not made idly or smoothly but involves a transformation wherein his reality - and the reality of his family - is changed forever. In the gloaming of his life all things are made new and seen afresh, just as his life is given up to the still night of death.

It seems to me that I have been in something of a gloaming. I entered the Society of Jesus with the intent to serve God as a companion of Jesus by helping others. I'd scarcely consider myself naive, though I would admit to being a bit idealistic. This idealism has all but faded as recent events have certainly marked a transition - perhaps even a maturation - in my life.

The election of Benedict XVI and recent shake-up at America magazine have left me feeling dejected. I'm not alone in my despondency, to be sure, but of late my hope had begun to be eclipsed by nagging suspicions that I don't belong in the Jesuits, that I might not even belong in the church. In idle moments - and believe me, I have many of them - I scan the on-line newspapers, blogs, and religious columns and I often find myself siding more those "liberal dissidents" rather than triumphant troubadors of orthodoxy.

I've been praying about this a lot...many late nights walking down back roads and through Native American cemeteries. I pray easier at night when all the world is asleep and I can feel my own smallness in the enormity of God's creation. Things are so very different at night, still and calm and peaceful; I am very different at night, receptive and searching. It's because of this that I tend to walk at night which is, by contrast, so much more peaceful than the day. Though the setting is the same, there is a clear distinction between the land during the night and the land during the day. There is an apparently neat and easy split between the two - dark and light, night and day.

So I took a walk this evening and questioned my purpose...I suppose the "desert experience" of being somewhat alone in Wyoming will raise such questions. Since I'd eaten supper earlier than usual, I embarked on my walk just as the sun began to set and the landscape was transformed by a new light, by a fading light, by the gloaming. And as I stood there watching creation take on a new and vibrant hue, I knew that darkness would inevitably fall and that soon all would be shrouded by a moonless night. Transfixed by this sight and the ambiguity it posed, its mediation between night and day, all the questions I have been wrestling with - "Do I want a family?" "Should I go back to music as a career?" "Should I go and do my PhD, or go to law school, or to medical school?" - fell silent. Day and night ceased to exist and there, between the two, was a whole new realm of time and vision that erased my fears and anxiety and, in their stead, I found but one word: dialogue.

Now it might not seem like much to you: dialogue. If my zeal and enthusiasm was to be a servant of Christ and the church, then my role may best be expressed as one who will seek to interpret and to initiate dialogue between parties. If women seek roles of leadership in the church, how do I listen and engage both sides in order to bring them to discussion. If gays and lesbians and transgendered persons seek greater recognition, then I will listen to their narratives and stand by them as an empathetic listener and proactive dialogue partner. In the ecumenical and inter-religious forum, perhaps my best service will be to be attentive to the other traditions and to seek more common and fertile ground in which seeds of mutual respect and admiration might be planted.

I think part of my difficulty in many ways is that I'm always looking for answers. It's frustrating to be on an Indian Mission where there are so many problems - alcoholism, drugs, domestic violence, chronic unemployment - and it seems that there are no answers to these problems. I can't solve their problems...hell, I can't even seem to make a dent. But I'm realizing that my job is not to "change" them or to give them answers but rather is to companion them on their journey as a people. They must find and appropriate the answers that will address their own lives, otherwise it is nothing less that imperialism or gross imposition.

There is no end to dialogue, no way to exhaust the riches mined from either party engaged in open and honest discourse. Perhaps my role as a Jesuit will be nothing more - and certainly nothing less - than one as an able companion for dialogue, one who can offer an ear and a discerning heart, to see how parties are being led and how they might best follow the promptings of the Spirit. Regardless of current events - I say tremulously - this is the best service I am able to offer.

I think I joined the Jesuits in part to find and to offer answers. Surely this is why I love academics so dearly. Nevertheless, I doubt seriously my ability to offer good and pat answers to any "problem" or issue that presents itself. Maybe all I have to do is to keep asking questions and, when a good answer presents itself, to take account of it, note it, and then ask, "but what if..."

I'm not accustomed to writing longer posts - I'm generally too lazy - and I suspect that as nutty as I am, this is a bit more personal than usual. Tough. Some will think it silly and others will think it trite and still others - probably those who know me - will think it insincere. In studies I have embraced the "gray" area of life, advocated that in dealing with matters of faith there was much of a premium placed on silence-in-the-face-of-mystery rather than empty words expressive of very little. Perhaps my life and vocation is to be a perpetual gloaming, mediating the shift of night and day, faith and doubt, belief and unbelief, gay and straight, man and woman, black and white. Such would be consistent with a process of maturation that enabled the appropriation and incorporation of a method into one's very life or very being.

I fear I'm rambling and becoming incoherent...if it's quite something to experience, it is something else to express. If my gesturing toward some meaning has had any effect then let it be this: that the decision "for" or "against" is antithetical to the gloaming experience of "both/and" that is commensurate with so much of our Catholic faith "both fully human and divine," "both sinner and loved" etc. Things are so different when cast in a new light, familiar yet foreign, when we take the time to see the world through gloaming eyes.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Health Update

I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm feeling much better these last two days. Though I'm still pretty sore, I'm finding that I rely less on the painkillers I have been prescribed and can counter the muscle aches with Aleve rather than anything stronger.

Thanks to everyone who has called, sent cards, and emailed me. These last few weeks have been pretty I stated earlier, I'm not a good patient though being sick out here has schooled me well in patience. Though the idea that I return to Detroit a bit early in order to seek medical attention has been advanced, I'd prefer to work through these last twelve days of my Short Experiment. I think I'm on the upswing and, barring any deterioration of my health, I think all will be well.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Thanks to everyone who prayed for Mike and Brian as they competed yesterday. I'm proud now to announce their results:


1st Place 15-18 Tin Whistle!!!

This is big time, folks. Mike was the youngest guy in the competition and there were, I believe, about ten in the group. We should all be very proud of this feat -- it's a great honor! The judge's comment was brilliant in announcing the first and second place winners: "I have never seen either of these two boys before. I'll never forget their performance." No greater kudos can I think of!


1st Place under 12 Flute
2nd Place under 12 Tin WHistle

With 30 kids in the whistle competition, Brian really had a brilliant showing. Here's another guy who'd better be tremendously proud of himself -- Congratulations! Brian once proclaimed, "I just gotta live the life, Ryan! I gotta be out there living the life." I don't know if this counts as "living the life" but I'm sure it's a step in the right direction!

As someone who has worked with these two musicians as a musical guide, I can't tell you all how proud and excited I am for them -- they totally deserve any accolades they receive. Their success speaks more to their skill, discipline, and passion for the music than it does to my skills as a teacher. I should hazard the thought, though, that our "over the telephone" music lessons didn't hurt in the least! I know both boys are grateful to Tom Hastings who has been working with them for a long time, and their success this weekend speaks volumes of his abilities as a teacher and as a coach.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

What the #$&%!

Did you see the third comment posted below? Yep, it's PATRICK Gilday! Patrick "I don't write my first-year novice brothers because I'm so busy attending to the needs of the sick and dying" Gilday. Well, better late than never.

It is because of Patrick's dereliction of duty that I shall inaugurate a new saying. Instead of "What the Hell?" we will now say "What the Gilday." I guess it's sort of like "sam hell" or "samhill" or whatever it is people say out here in the West. So when you're caught in traffic and some jerk cuts you off, don't cry out "What the hell is wrong with you!?!?!" Instead, cry out "What the Gilday is wrong with you!?!?!"

It has a nice ring to it, I think.

Thanks for writing, Patrick. See what I do if you send me a whole email....


Tuesday, May 03, 2005


So I went to the emergency room after I posted this morning, owing to the terrible pain in my stomach that kept me up a good bit of last night. The doctors seem to think that I've a pretty nasty infection and that it'll take a good week to clear it up. The details of my ailments are pretty gross, so I'll spare you from hearing them, but thanks to everyone who has written/called. I hate feeling sick in the first place and being away from home and loved ones makes it even harder. I'm glad I'll be back in just over two weeks!

If I can get to it this evening, I'll post my own recipe for Bailey's Irish Cream sauce. It's a pretty cool concoction that was *AWESOME* over a chocolate mousse pie I made yesterday.

That's really about it. I'm giving a workshop tonight to CCD teachers on the importance of structure in the classroom. Ryan and Structure...those two match really well. Tomorrow I'm doing communion calls all morning, giving another workshop to CCD teachers by teaching a real live 6th grade class, and then I'm giving a talk to a local parish's 6-12th grade CCD students.

If you've a mind to do so, please say a prayer for Michael and Brian English as they head to St Louis this weekend to represent Cleveland at the Mid-Western Fleadh. They've been working very hard for this event and they can certainly use our prayer and support.

Sparse Posts!

Hey there,

Sorry I've not posted much lately - since Mother Loren was away in California, visiting her son, I didn't see much point in writing as one of my most participative readers (ie, a person who leaves comments!) was away. Strange, Mother Marquard visited her son in New York. Did Mother Duns? HELL NO! She'd rather go to Ireland or spend her time making stoles for deacons rather than come and see her son in the wilds of Wyoming. Typical. Just typical.

Anyway, the real reason for my dearth of posts this week is that I've not been feeling terribly well. I don't think it's anything to worry about, but I'll let ya'll know what the story is as soon as I figure it out myself.

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame