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!

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame