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!!

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame