Wednesday, December 27, 2006

No Place Like Home for the Holidays

As it is my custom, whenever I come home to Cleveland I prefer to stay at the four-star "Chez Hagan" B&B, also known as Grandma Hagan's house. In these delux accomodations I have cable, a big bed, my own bathroom, and 24/7 laundry service. In fact, Grandma Hagan's charism seems to be doing the laundry: I can throw anything down into the basement and then, several hours later, it will re-appear folded and clean! If I believed in House Elves, I would suspect that my grandmother had help but, since I know better, I have to marvel at her laundering skill. I mean, I bet I could take all of my just-delivered clothes and throw them up into the air, wrinkle them up, and then throw them back downstairs and, by the time I wake up tomorrow, they'll be clean and folded!

As a novice, we prepared for Christmas with a Triduum retreat. Mirroring the pattern of the three-day Triduum, the Duns family celebrates Christmas with three days of festivities. On Christmas Eve my Uncle Jack, Aunt Nancy, and cousin Melissa come over for dinner. In years past, my brother's friends usually show up at around 10:00 and one of them plays "When the Saints go Marching In" with alcohol-fueled abandon over and over until the wee hours of the morning.

Christmas Day is spent with my mother's family. They are afraid that I will write about the goings-on of the Hagan Family event, so I will remain silent (for now) and, when I download some pictures, I'll offer a pictographic essay detailing all of the sordid details.

Finally, yesterday was the St. Stephen's Day Open House. A good number of people came through the house during the evening and Michael and Brian English provided musical entertainment. Drew and Loretta, Adam and Nancy, and Patrick Gilday came over, too (guests of honor!) which was for each them the first time they've seen our family home. There are videos and pictures coming from this event which will be posted soon.

So that about does it. I'm heading up to Detroit for our formation gathering on Friday and I hope to have a good time there. Things are genuinely quiet around here and I am grateful as it has given me the opportunity to catch up on sleep and some pleasure reading. If I get a chance, I'll put up some more YouTube videos from our parties. Until then, Peace!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Name Change

After fielding a host of questions concerning the name of my blog, I have decided to change it to "A Jesuit's Journey." I chose the name "Wounded Knower" almost two years ago when I began a more in-depth study of the history of Christian mysticism and became enchanted by the concept of one who, through an encounter with the risen Christ, bore forever the wounds of knowledge, the wound of knowing the Lord.

So, while the content will stay the same, I figure a name change to start the new year would be a good idea.

I wish a Merry Christmas to all. Please hold in prayer our friends and family members who are no longer with this. I remember particularly John Beebe, father of Richard Beebe, nSJ who died after his battle with cancer. Our prayers are united with Rich as he mourns the loss of his father.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Just a quick note: posts will probably be few as I am now at home and have less direct access to a computer. When I come to Cleveland, I stay at my Grandma Hagan's house in Rocky River - and Grandma does not have the internet. In case I don't post again before Christmas, please let me extend my sincere and prayerful wishes for all my readers. I wish you a Merry and joy-filled Christmas and a grace and peaceful New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Companions Reflection

The Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus - a geographic area covering Michigan and most of Ohio - publishes a supplement to Company Magazine entitled Companions. The Fall edition carries reflections offered by me and two of my classmates on the occasion of the profession of our first vows. Below is my reflection:

I learned to play Irish music by imitating the great masters of the tradition. Sitting at their feet, I would watch how they breathed, how they kept time, how they expressed themselves through their tunes. Over time, I found my own voice in the tradition and realized that I, too, had something to contribute; I realized that what I had received from those who had come before me demanded that I respond by passing down our musical heritage to the next generation.

Professing vows mirrors my experience with music. Having come to know God through the love shown to me by my family and friends, and particularly through the influence of my Jesuit teachers and mentors, I felt deep within my heart an invitation to "come and see" as a member of the Society of Jesus. I am grateful to be allowed to pledge my life to the upbuilding of God's kingdom on earth, and I am humbled to stand in the shadow of a long tradition of masters - Ignatius, Xavier, Faber, Robert Bellarmine, Karl Rahner, Walt Farrell, Howard Gray - from whom I have learned so much. For it is these men who I can now claim as my brothers, who have empowered me to find my own voice in the Jesuit tradition, they who have encouraged me to pass down our religious heritage to another generation, these men who have shown by their lives how one might live as a Companion of Jesus.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Few New Things

I just want to advert your attention to several new links on the site. "Nunsuch" is a blog recently started by Sister Sandy Yost, CSJ who is a professor at the University of Detroit-Mercy. "A Nun's Life" is the blog of Sister Julie Vieira, IHM of Loyola Press. Finally, we have added "Meditations from Carmel" (Not the delicious butter and sugar 'caramel' but Mt. Carmel, of Elijah vs. Baal fame and the birthplace of the Carmelite religious order. Come to think of it, if I ever write my cookbook "Dessert Mysticism" I might have to include a section on "Caramelite Spirituality"). This site is similar to pray-as-you-go and has short reflections drawn from the rich spiritual heritage of the Carmelites. As one who has a deep love of the 16th-century Carmelite mystics (Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross) I'm quite glad to include this site here!

Oh! One more thing:

Happy Birthday to Jane Dryden!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Deep River

Years ago, I read a marvelous book by Shusako Endo entitled "Deep River". If you ever get a chance, I would suggest picking it up.

Throughout the novel, there is a recurring passage of Scripture taken from Isaiah 53. Using the King James version (it sounds nicer this way) it reads:

He hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and
acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our
faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was
bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed. And we like sheep
have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid upon him
the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, and yet
he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Perhaps it is because it is Advent, or because I'm living in New York, or because I am growing more sensitive to such things, but I am really captivated by this passage. You see, for a long time I've read these words as talking about Jesus. And it is certainly hard to imagine the Crucified Christ not fitting this description: abandoned and alone on the cross, dying a shameful and ignominious death.

But I cannot help but think of the countless numbers of crucified persons we see each day. I walk by homeless men and women every day...and do I ever really look at them? I think I hide my eyes, busy myself by making a call on my cell phone, feigning to look for some change in my pockets as I scurry past the the afflicted hand reaching out for help. How many times have I seen a person who "openeth not his mouth" to ask for help because he has scrawled a message on a piece of cardboard asking for money? How often is it just an empty cup set out in front of the person who huddles next to a building that indicates this person needs money? And how often do I walk on by, ignoring the plight of my sister or brother because I am so taken with matters of "grave consequence" that I simply 'must' attend to immediately?

Meditating on the crucified may seem to be more appropriate to Lent, but I think we must spend time with it during Advent, too. Long before Jesus was scourged, before his cry of "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me" pierced the atmosphere of Calvary and entered the very heart of God, there was another cry. A still, cold night in a Bethlehem stable was shattered by the cry of a child, a newborn baby whose future and destiny was perhaps unimaginable to his parents that night. I truly do not believe that Mary beheld her newborn baby boy and thought, "You're going to be crucified for the sins of the world." I imagine that her heart swelled with love and pride and joy at the sight of her son, a son whose future stretched out before him.

I mention this because long before Jesus was crucified, he was an infant held in his mothers arms. Long before the homeless men and women we see each day were the "problem of homelessness" or that "inconvenient panhandler" they were babies, held in the arms of their mothers. They, too, had a future that stretched out before them; they had a destiny, one often shaped by abuse, poor environments, and mental illness. Those hands stretched on a cross and mutilated by iron spikes once reached out to grab a father's finger; those hands that now shake as they inject heroin or reach out a grimy hand to ask for money once reached out to a mommy or daddy for a hug.

The season of Advent intends to prepare us for the coming of Emmanuel, for "God with us." This is not a one-day-per-year event: God is still with us, still being revealed in our day-to-day lives. We meet this God in the utter potentiality and promise of newborn babies, in the boundless enthusiasm of youth, and in the wisdom of our elderly. But as Christians, we know that our faith and our lives are messy, we know that we are disciples of the crucified One...and it is this God, the God of the broken and maimed, we still encounter. Pierced not by nails but by track marks from drugs, scourged not with whips but with harsh words, abandoned not by disciples but by society, labeled not "traitor" but "problem", the presence of the crucified poor, particularly the homeless, bespeaks the silent voice of God. We need not look far to see this face of Christ, the despised and broken Lord who continues to call us into service.

As we step up preparations for our Christmas festivities, let us not forget those who are so often forgotten. Let us try to see in the broken bodies who walk through our streets the presence of the crucified Christ, the one who bore on his back the sins of a broken and hostile world, the Christ who continues to reach out his wounded hand to each of us...wounded by drugs, by AIDS, by abuse, by neglect...inviting us into deeper relationship.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Intro to the Irish Tin Whistle

I'm only going to post this first video on here (the rest will be stored on the YouTube group I've dedicated to the whistle) just to show the shape of the course I'm going to teach. I'm very excited about using the internet to teach Irish music and I think that this will open up a host of opportunities both for musical education and for evangelization (why should the two be separate?).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Day of Leisure

Yeah, I'm pretty much that guy: I finished my papers and, since I feel pretty confident for the one final I have on Monday, I've decided to spend the next few days concerned with leisurely pursuits. So today I had a leisurely breakfast, read for a spell, then I went to the Metropolitan Museum where I saw "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 192o's" and "Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall - An Artist's Country Estate". I also learned a new word that I would like to share:

Demimonde - a noun describing the class of women considered to be of doubtful morality and social upstanding.

I encountered the word as associated with the "Glitter and Doom" exhibit (it was used, I think, three times) and as a lover of fun words, I wrote it down and looked it up in the dictionary. I don't know how I'd ever incorporate that into my quotidian lexicon (Read: day-to-day speech) but I thought it a fun sounding word nonetheless.

Following the Museum I went and looked at comic books, visited the Apple store, had a pint of Guinness at a pub, and then I went and saw the film "The Queen". Indeed, pleasant is the life of the scholar!

By tomorrow morning, my YouTube videos will have been viewed 16,000 times. That's a lot of views! I have two music lessons to teach tomorrow afternoon and, after my trip to the gym and breakfast, I have hopes of recording the first several lessons to be used for next semester's course. They'll be in 6-7 minute segments and I plan on doing a few handouts that I'll scan and post on my site. For that matter, I do wonder if I should have a separate blog *just* for teaching music but, since I find two to be hard to handle, I don't want to add another. With any luck, my team of negotiators will begin brokering an exciting deal to breathe new life into Jesuit Recipes. Stay tuned on that!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Open House

As it has now become the custom, we will be hosting the Duns Family Open House on Tuesday, December 26th. If you will be in the Cleveland area, please put this date on your calendar - the past two years have been great fun and I believe that this year we will have a good Jesuit representation (Drew and Adam and, hopefully, their mothers!). There will be food, there will be music, and there will be good cheer - please consider attending!

It's been a very busy week. In addition to the tin whistle course I'm teaching next term, I am also running two independent studies on the history of Irish music. I'll also be taking four courses: St. Augustine, Fundamental Moral Theology, Christology, and Philosophy and Contemporary Theology. It'll be a busy term, to be sure, but I'm excited for my courses.

The consequence of my first round through graduate school is that I learned, due to a heavy travel schedule, how to manage my time efficiently. So I'm proud to say that I have basically the next ten days relatively free, save only for a final exam in my Aristotle class. My final project for theological anthropology should top out at 35-pages of Trinitarian goodness (I have a few touches yet to add, but I know what I want to do) and my other papers are now handed in.

Being done early gives me a great opportunity to enter into the Advent season in a manner to which I'm somewhat unaccustomed. I often enough treat Christmas as a deadline for getting stuff done, and I'm finding that I can see this Advent more as a season of journeying toward Christmas, a season where I'm coming to know the birth of the child Christ as the destination of the liturgical season. I've had time for extra prayer and reflection, time that allows me to dig deeper and examine more fully my own spiritual journey during this season. I quite like not having the stress of last-minute paper writing, so I'm glad to spend my time on more interesting pursuits, such as a biography of Theresa of Avila and yet another book on Rahner!

On a cultural note, the provincial of the Chicago Province (Ed Schmidt, SJ) took several of us to see "A Chorus Line" on Wednesday. This is a revival show, drawing on its original music from the 1975 show, known best perhaps for the song "One" (Singular Sensation) which I recall being used in a commercial for coffee or sweetener. A lover of musicals, I thoroughly enjoyed this show, although my seat was a bit uncomfortable (rogue spring poking me in the rear!). While in Chicago for the Oireachtas, I also saw The Pirate Queen. This was also a fine show, all things considered, and I look forward to seeing it after it has been re-tooled for its Broadway debut.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Quick Update

First off, thank you for holding my mother in prayer these last few days. Her surgery went very well and she is now at home recovering. After twenty-seven years of wondering, I now have definitive proof: my mother does, in fact, have a heart.

Second, my sister Torrey has returned from Japan.

Third, the second point wouldn't be wholly news-worthy if, upon Torrey's return, her boyfriend didn't propose to her!

Yep, Torrey is getting married to Brian Halloran!!!!!

This is really great news in our house. Brian, originally from New Jersey, is now teaching in Chicago. He is an exceptionally accomplished Irish musician (flute, whistle, pipes) and I am so joyful that he will be joining the clan.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Request for Prayers

It has been a VERY busy Post-Oireachtas week. Hence the dearth of posts on the site.

I would ask, however, for prayers for my mother Mary Michele Duns. Mom is having heart surgery today and I know she and my whole family would appreciate it if you held her in prayer.


**IF I can find the time by Sunday, I would like to share my Advent reflection with you. I had time while playing for Irish dancers this weekend to reflect on the Advent season, and I have a feeling that it might be helpful to some**

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Uploading Sort of Day

Apart from having to read a few articles, I've had time enough to play with my computer today. I've put a bunch of new videos up on YouTube - if you follow the link on the right, you'll find your way to them.

Please say a prayer for safe travels for of those Irish dancers and their families who will be competing at their regional championships this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Will Take My Worry to the Harp

So for my 301st post, this is a video from the same concert shown below. This is Fr. Robert Scullin, SJ, the provincial of the Detroit Province. This was the release of his CD "And It's So Clear", the benefits from which go to support Jesuit Refugee Services. I like the tin whistle interlude. The acoustics weren't too hot, though.

300th Post!!!

I just realized that this is my 300th post. Hooray!

So here's my first "speaking video" to be posted. I had to edit it a little bit because I risked violating HIPAA protocol. Nevertheless, you'll get the gist of it. This is a talk I gave as part of series at my alma mater, St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. We were asked to reflect on how our time at Ignatius had influenced us on our journey. Obviously, I couldn't resist throwing a little Irish music into the mix.

Discernment of Spirits

Playing Clerics (Ryan and Jim)

I think it speaks for itself! Taken October 29th, 2005 in Detroit at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekend Update

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted! Time sure is flying by.

It really has been a busy week. I've been trying to get a lot of work done before I head off to Chicago this weekend for the Mid-American Oireachtas. I'm amazed that I'm not more nervous than I am - I guess I'm getting used to playing "high pressured" gigs again. I've also been busy teaching my one-on-one music students and preparing to teach my "Intro to the Irish Tin Whistle" course next semester (as of Friday, I have 19 students registered and the sophomores and first years still have to sign up for classes). I'm also going to direct a student in the Irish Studies program as she does research into the tin whistle.

Happy 17th Birthday to Michael English. His birthday is on the 15th so I hope he accepts this belated greeting.

Things are going pretty well otherwise. I'll probably not post anything new until after I come back next week, so please don't worry that I've given up blogging. If I could find my tin whistle (I seem to have lost it) I'd record another tune for YouTube!

Speaking of YouTube, if you check out my "favorites" you'll see some very cool videos of a community of Benedictine nuns. I think it is AWESOME that they are using YouTube to spread their message, so if you're so inclined, check them out! Here's one of their videos!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Two Old Favorites

Per a request by Meghan McNamara, I have posted two tunes that I've been playing for many years. The first one is a lovely reel "The Golden Keyboard" and the second one was my party-piece when I was in the 8th and it's called "The Flogging Reel."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Matters of Faith

One of the best things about maintaining a blog is that every now and again, someone stumbles upon what you've written and something you've said touches a nerve or strikes an inner chord. This week I had the good fortune of beginning a thoughtful conversation with a young man who has agreed to allow me to use his question as the beginning of this post. He writes:

One of the problems that I have with faith has to do with prayer actually, and I was wondering your opinion. When I go to mass on Sundays, I feel like I am just sitting through a recited hour of prayer . When people say the creed and when they say the Our Father, there doesn't seem to be any emotion or any meaning behind what they are saying. It all seems like a routine where we say what we are told to say, and that we are not really saying what we believe, but we are just repeating what others say that they believe and that we are not actually saying it for ourselves...I am not saying in any way that church is obsolete, but I just struggle with the fact that even when I realize that I am just repeating words that I have memorized, and even though I do mean them, they are still so impersonal and it does not seem like what I think church should be like.

Let me offer a somewhat elliptical response. When I teach music, the last thing I say, the great words of encouragement I impart, the kernel of knowledge that I pass along in order to help the student grow as a musician is this: PRACTICE! The best teacher cannot make much headway in any subject if the pupil is stubborn and refuses to move. It is only when the music (or the jump shot for basketball , or the pitch for baseball, or the surgical technique) becomes so utterly ingrained in you, so much a part of your nature that you don't have to think about it, only then are you able to move from "Playing a tune" to "being an Irish musician" or shooting a basketball to "being a basketball player."

I think in a lot of ways our liturgical prayers are like this. They become so ingrained, so much a part of our experience, that they can seem impersonal. I don't want to rail against the people in the pews, so I ask each of us this question: What do I bring to the prayers that I recite? Each week (or day) when I gather for the Eucharist, what in my heart do I bring before the Lord? What do I have to offer? Am I there because I have to be, or because it is "it is right to give God thanks and praise"?

Liturgical prayer inserts us into a chorus singing the ever-ancient, ever-new song of God-with-us. When we bring ourselves as we are - bitter, joyful, sad, nervous, angry, unsure - and surrender ourselves over to prayer, then we claim our role in this choral work. I think it is very possible to go to Mass and "not get anything out of it" because Mass is not a Pez dispenser of grace. If you have any sense, you just don't walk in expecting to "get some God" and have some splendid vision of the Holy One. Instead, the Eucharist is like a good investment: you put in your blood, your sweat, and your tears. You invest yourself totally, offering all that you have and call your own, and you place it before the Lord on the altar. The beauty of this investment is that the Lord accepts whatever you have to offer...even what you think of little value, the Lord wants you to offer. Over time, and it takes a very long time, you'll notice that your weekly commitment, your daily offering, is slowly being transformed. Bringing yourself to the Lord leads to your own transubstantiation, a change of your own substance, leading you out of "going to" mass and into "a being for" the Eucharist.

I have gone on far too long! Part of adult faith moves us from an image of mass-as-Pez or mass-as-slot machine where if we're lucky and play the right game, we'll hit the jackpot. Our liturgical prayers are like deposit slips on which we write our heart's needs and desires, consecrating them with our hope in God and entrusting them into Christ's pierced heart. My honest sense is that people experience mass as redundant because they have become redundant; they see it as something they "show up to" rather than an event they participate in. They are spectators, not the spiritual gladiators we are called to be, warriors fighting and seeking rest and healing each week at the Lord's table.

(Could I use any more images or metaphors?)

In short, to my young friend I would urge you to make the words personal by letting them flow from your heart. Do not be afraid to scandalize God...the crucifixion took care of that. Make the prayers your prayers, load them up with your desires and fears and joys and sorrows. Let the prayers you know so well allow you to know God ever anew. Let each moment of the Eucharist call us into deeper friendship with the Lord who offers his very body and blood as our sustenance. Invest not idle words, but your entire life, into the heart of our Lord and give it time...the dividends are out of sight!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sore Finger

A local feis (Irish dancing competition) contacted me early last week in need of a musician. I agreed and, with Kerry Oster, drove out to Long Island yesterday to do the feis. It was a long day, starting at 9:00 and, with but a short break in which I consumed two slices of pizza, I didn't finish playing until 8:00. Needless to say, eleven hours of accordion playing is pretty rough and I needed the full night of sleep I got last night in order to recover.

The only problem, save for a sore back, is that my hands are awfully sore today. My "Pointing Finger" (in adult language, my index finger) in particular is quite sore. Typing with it is hard, so I'm not using it which makes this whole process of blogging very difficult, so we'll let this serve as a brief update.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Videos

Because I had a request to do so, I put two more videos up on YouTube today. They are two jigs - Tobin's and Out on the Ocean. Neither one is a tune I play on the whistle frequently, but I thought I'd record them if they'd be of interest or help to anyone.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Theological Suggestion

In addition to being a lover of Irish music, I also love the study of theology. I often feel anomalous in that my study of theology is geared toward making the tenets of faith understandable and relevant to people's lives. I think that is why my favorite topic is prayer - it is something we can all do, we can all improve upon, and is the source of all good theological reflection.

In recent years, a disturbing trend has been documented. Many adult Catholics have a very difficult time understanding the concept of transubstantiation (say it three times really fast!), let alone understanding the meaning of the Eucharist at Sunday Mass. Indeed, at the "Three Cheers for Catholicism" group last night, this was one of the issues we discussed, how many Catholics just "go through the motions" and have no idea about what is actually happening.

One of my favorite theologians is James Alison. Alison appropriated the mimetic theory of Rene Girard and fused it with his own theological genius. The result has been several excellent books and many fine articles. What distinguishes Alison's work from so many other theologians is that he writes (more often) in essay format, which means that they tend to be pretty accessible.

So I would suggest that people read "Those With Eyes to See". It's a very short piece - only 2.5 printed pages - but I think it does a great job presenting transubstantiation in a creative and transformative way. What I appreciate most about this article is that it is thoroughly orthodox and still eminently creative. I mean, who else would use Magic Eye to make intelligible this central aspect of our faith. If nothing else, and let this be a lesson to catechists, we come to know God because God wants to be known. God will meet us wherever and whenever we are open to such a revelation. Good cathechesis and prayer gives people "eyes to see" God in all things, not as some pantheistic notion, but as a dynamic force straining to establish God's reign on earth. Good catechesis, as any good teaching, doesn't just impart information. It transforms vision, allowing us to see all things as new. Read and pray with this article...I have found it so helpful in my own life and in my appreciation for our Lord who gives himself to us at Eucharist.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Technical Difficulty

I don't usually read my own blog, so I didn't notice that the "child abuse" post had gone up three times. As you can now see, I've remedied that! As irritated as I was/am, I don't know that people need to read my complaining three times...once is more than enough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Child Abuse

In honor of Halloween, some of us decided to take in the riveting epic Saw III last night. If you have seen any of the movies in this series, you'll know that they are extremely violent and intended for a (theoretically) mature audience.

So imagine my shock last night when a young family showed up, including a four-year old little girl. And she was not the only child there - although my seat did not give me the best vantage point, I could count at least six children under the age of twelve. In a movie where putrified hog corpses are liquified in order to drown a judge and a young man is "crucified" in an apparatus that twists his body so as to force his bones through his skin, I don't know that this is quite in line with Winne the Pooh or Spongebob or whatever is popular with children today.

Having worked in a hospital and having been present to many traumas in the ER, I thought I was accustomed to the noises and sights of medical instruments whirring and blood. I am grateful that I'm still sensitive to such things (I had my ears covered for a lot of the movie it was so aurally overwhelming) but I can't fathom what those little kids were thinking. I can't imagine what their parents were thinking, except that they wanted to see the movie and, in lieu of hiring a babysitter, brought the baby with them. I might not be a dad, but I do want to be a father, and all I can say is that it was one of the stupidest and most thoughtless displays of parenting I have ever witnessed. Lord knows, someone will take exception to that statment and chastise me. But near as I can tell, I don't think it's proper or helpful or wise to replace the images of childhood (Winnie the Pooh, Care Bears, Pokemon, Harry Potter) with the graphic and horrifying images of Saw III.

I'm getting off of my Saturday morning soapbox! We have a liturgy workshop today, so I must prepare myself one prepares for such a workshop, I don't know, but I'll find a way!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musical Vocation

I'm in a bit of a writing mood this evening, so I thought I'd put down something of my musical vocation story. Since I started posting videos on YouTube and on here as well, my site has seen an ENORMOUS surge in traffic, much of it due to people's interest in Irish music.

Since I do not have children of my own, I often wonder what it would be like to hold my own son or daughter. I wonder what kind of dreams I would have for him. I've never asked him this, but I have taken to wondering what my own father and mother dreamt for me when I was a baby. Did they want me to be a baseball player? A doctor? A teacher? Rich? It's just so amazing to think that a parent holds a lifetime of potential is her arms, a potential that will be so shaped and molded by the parents' love and care.

So when I was little I did the things most kids did, I guess. I played 'hot stove' baseball, softball with the parish, and flag football. By the time I was in the second grade, my sister Torrey had already begun taking Irish dancing classes and I saw how much fun she was having. My mother, wise as she is, probably saw that I had little to no physical coordination and signed me and my brother Colin up for tin whistle lessons with a local music teacher.

Interestingly, neither of my parents play music. Nor did my grandparents. But both of my great-grandfathers were great musician - Grandpa Hagan played the piano throughout Cleveland and my Grandpa Kilbane was a fine fiddle player. His sister, Sister Margaret Anne Kilbane, was an Ursuline sister who was a nice button accordion player in her own right. Some traits skip generations, but the musical trait skipped two in my case!

It may come as a shock to readers, but I really wasn't a very good music student. It took years for me to attain any level of proficiency on the whistle. I liked playing it, to be sure, but I probably was about eleven or twelve before I started to show forth some promise as a musician. Perhaps I exaggerate - I might have actually been pretty good, but it seems now so long ago that it's hard to recall. I do remember, however, struggling a lot to learn tunes and having a hard time learning by ear.

During this time I also picked up the accordion. For those youngsters reading, the accordion is not, contrary to popular belief, the way to go if you want to make a lot of friends. I think most of my past self-esteem problems stem directly from having learned to play the accordion (which I have taken to calling "the box" as it sounds better than saying accordion).

By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had begun to find my voice in the Irish musical tradition. I began playing in a band called "Tap the Bow" with a Jesuit regent, Brother Jim Boynton. Jim was the first Jesuit I'd ever met, so it seems fitting now that he was in his first year as vocation director the year I applied.

I started teaching music relatively young - I was sixteen, I believe. So I've been a music teacher now for ten years. As I write this, I chuckle: I've gone from learning the whistle from Tom Hastings in a musty second bedroom in his house to teaching out of my kitchen for six-dollars a lesson (when I started) to now teaching a college course at Fordham University. That's a lot of mileage on one $10.00 instrument!

I began playing for feiseanna (Irish dancing competitions) as I moved through college. My two years of graduate school seem a blur now, as I went to school during the week and played nearly every weekend. There is a part of me that misses that life, the friends I made and the various places I would travel. Some of my best friends are the result of being a part of the Irish dancing circuit.

After spending a whole day trying to isolate the Trinitarian dimension of Karl Rahner's anthropology, what I write here seems to lack a cohesive bond. I'm not much for narrating history, so let me offer a few thoughts on the career of Irish music.

I chose quite deliberately not to make Irish music my life. My vocation has obviously led me into the Society of Jesus, but that does not mean that I was not called to be a musician. I would like to think that my musical vocation has called and will continue to call me out of myself and into a world where I can express my deep love for my Irish heritage through music and song and dance. You see, I do not see music and priesthood as opposed to one another. In a real sense, both try to free others. For so many, our hearts are so burdened that we seek out a healing word that will free us from the doubt and anger and sadness that weighs on us; so many of us are scared to step out onto the dance floor that it takes a compelling rhythm to summon us into the dance. Had I made music my job, I fear I would have begun to concern myself with "performing" the music than encountering others in the music.

Music can be a movement of hospitality, a making space for another person. Words can be bulky, but a tune or a song is often able to squeeze its way into even the narrowest of hearts. We don't recite epic poems or read Rahner to napping infants; we do, however, sing soft lullabies that sooth and reassure them of our presence.

I began by wondering about parental desires for children. I doubt sincerely that my parents ever dreamed that I would be an Irish music playing Jesuit. But through their love and support, I have been able to claim my place in my religious and cultural heritage.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Picture and a Shot Out

First off, thanks to the English family for their thoughtful birthday present. They know me well enough to have sent Malley's Chocolate Covered Pretzels and some awesome Aero bars. They also included a copy of the 10/12/2006 edition of the Edsman which carried a nice story about Mike's trip to Ireland. Great story!

Second, the above picture is none other than Howard Gray, SJ. For those of you who read often, you'll know that I reference Howard often. I cannot put into words how important this man has been in my life. I will offer this as a testament to his role in my formation: he is the man who taught me how to pray.

You have to admit, he does look like Yoda! The only difference: Father Gray doesn't need a light saber to defeat evil.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Willie Coleman's, Wheels of the World, The Rainy Day

My weekly submission to YouTube.

In keeping with a request, I will submit my musical vocation story sometime this week - I just need to find time to write it!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The 27th Year

So I mark today the 27th year of my birth. I watched the series finale of "OZ" - the prison show we began watching last year in the novitiate. I also had dinner with Archbishop Joseph Pittau, SJ. Archbishop Pittau has played an enormously important role in the history of the Society and it was a great treat to recieve his birthday blessing and to listen to him share some of his stories at our community meeting. Now I'm off to watch the latest episode of Smallville before retiring for the night; I have to get up early as we're off to the gym at 7:45.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I now have a Facebook account, so if you have one please look for me and "poke" me. I'll add you to my friends list.

Also, I received a birthday e-card from my mother. Funny, I seem to remember celebrating my birthday every year on the 19th, not the 18th. Somebody is slipping, mother!

Yes, tomorrow is my 27th birthday. Maybe I'll write something with the vantage point of 27 years of wisdom, but that will depend on how much work I get done early in the day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Drew and Ryan at St Ignatius High School

Yeah, it's an ugly vest. It was very cold and I needed something warm, but I certainly do acknowledge that it's not very fashionable! I'll never wear it again. Thanks to Pat Fairbanks, SJ for the picture. Pat is the new vocations director for the Chicago Province. In the background of this picture, you'll also see Br Jim Boynton, the vocations director for the Detroit Province.

Father General

Here is the promised picture featuring Drew Marquard, Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach (the superior general of the Society of Jesus, and Ryan Duns.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I had a request for something "mellow" so I recorded this tune. I realized, in wracking my brain for tunes, that I don't play very many "mellow" pieces...which means I ought to learn some!

This piece was a pain to record - I think it took eight tries with various incursions wrecking each take (phone calls, dog parking, car horns...possibly a gunshot).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Trio of Tunes: Tim the Velvet, Toss the Feathers, Martin Wynne's #3

Three old favorites!

Technical Difficulties

I've never given any pretense to being possesed of great technical skill. Truth be told, I often have a hard time figuring out how to turn on the televisions in the house (due, in part, to the fact that we've three remotes per tv and I haven't a clue as to what any of them do). So my recent foray into YouTube and my ability both to record and to post videos has been astonishing. Now that I have posted my ninth short video, I'm looking to make my recordings longer and, hopefully, to add some sweet sound effects (not for any other reason than this: I can!).

Yet I am having a very difficult time partitioning videos to put them online. What I need to figure out is how to take the DVD I have with our vocation talks on them and get them into my iMovie program. I may have some time this weekend so, with any luck, I'll figure it out.

My other goal this weekend is to start to record short instructional videos on how to play the whistle. I figure I can distill the lessons into 5-7 minute segments which could be posted on the net and downloaded to people's computers. Ever ambitious, if I play my cards right I could have one very large internet class very soon!

That's about it for this post. I have two classes today (German and Plato) and tonight we're going to have a two-film marathon of Saw I and Saw II in anticipation of Saw III's debut in two weeks.

Oh! Do say a prayer for my sister Torrey and all the other candidates taking their TCRG and ADCRG exams this weekend in Toronto. The TCRG is the Irish acronym for an Irish dancing teacher and ADCRG is the same for adjudicator. I have every confidence in my sister, but I'd appreciate prayers of support just the same!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oireachtas, Revisited

After a very fine weekend of playing, I have consulted with my superiors and we've decided that I will, after all, play this year's Mid-American Oireachtas over Thanksgiving weekend. As some of you remember, I cancelled out on doing it earlier this semester but, considering they hadn't replaced me and seeing as I really do miss playing, it's not a bad idea for me to play.

I often wonder what difference I make, whether it be on the internet (although I'm building a nice base of viewers on YouTube!) or as a minister. But it seems to me that, after this weekend, my involvement with Irish dancing has a great deal of potential. To be sure, I don't spend much time directly with the kids...I just sit and play music for them and, sadly, most of them don't think I'm a human! To them, I'm a balding juke box who plays the accordion. That's fine - they're kids! But with the sheer volume of Irish dancers in America, I realize that the potential to make a difference in their lives is not only through playing, but also spending time with their teachers. Perhaps my friendship with teachers and adjudicators will help them along in their own spiritual journies and, in a quasi-trickle down effect, somehow reach the students with whom they spend so much time.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Surviving Another Feis Weekend

As I face a whole day off of school, I want quickly to update my site, for I have much work to do today!

The feiseanna went pretty well this weekend. To be sure, there were a number of points where my joints were popping and my muscles were aching, but I'm glad to say that I think I played pretty well. I used to have so much more endurance for such long days! The playing aside, it was awesome to spend time with a great group of adjudicators who were a lot of fun to hang out with.

When I was at JCU for graduate school, I think I flourished in large part because I was so busy. I never had weekends to work, so I was forced to do as much work as possible during the week. While I thought that I would enjoy a more leisurely pace of study, I find that I miss the activity of my former life and that playing this weekend was very helpful in reminding me that I do work well under pressure.

Check YouTube later today and this week as I make an effort to put a bunch of Jesuit videos online. I'll also try to record a few more tunes and get them posted, too.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Week to Come

Ahead is one of those weeks which remind me of my pre-Jesuit life. I have class tomorrow and on Tuesday morning and then, Tuesday afternoon, Drew and I are flying to Cleveland. Father General Peter Hans-Kolvenbach, SJ will be visiting the Detroit Province and we will be going to meet with him. This is very exciting and I am really looking forward to meeting Father General. If I get a picture with him, you can be sure that it will appear here soon after! We return late Thursday night and I have two classes on Friday...and then I fly out with Kerry Oster to go to Pittsburgh for the feis...and then I come back on Sunday night. I love being busy!

A quick request for prayers. My mother had to have her appendix removed today - apparently it was something of an emergency. I found at, as it is the custom to pass information to me in odd ways - via a text message whilst I was grocery shopping. My mom has been having several health issues and I'm sure your prayers (and mine!) would mean a lot to her.

For those who are interested, I have put a few more videos up on YouTube. I'll not post them all here, but you can follow the link on the right if you want to check them out. I will also take requests should someone have a tune they'd like to have recorded!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Odds and Ends

First off, I would like to thank my friend Eric Abercrombie for his generous gift and lovely card. Eric (AKA: Enyak, "Token Protestant Friend", father of the child-who-should-be-named-Rahner) and I did our MA's together from 2002-2004. United by Spirit and common enemies, we laughed our way through our time of studies. My best memories of graduate school seem to involve Abba Enyak as we tried to process Process theology, struggled with Rahner, learned of Abba Antony despite the blither of Brother V, and ate more pizzas and drank more coffee than I care to think about! Eric is grand scholar, a fine representative of the great state of West Virginia, and I am honored to call him my friend.

In his honor I include this picture. First, it shows that I do and can work (Recall: I do manualia as a Jesuit). Second, it commemorates the day Eric and I cleaned the backyard of Joan "The Boss" Nuth, a faculty member at John Caroll University. This was, as I recall, after the term had ended so our grades did not rest upon her satisfaction!

Now, on a more aesthetic note, I went last night to see the Broadway production of "The History Boys." I had not heard of this play until Howard Gray mentioned it and, as he cited it as brilliant, I figured I should check it out. Drew and I purchased Student-Rush tickets for $26.50 and went to the 8:00 show.

In a word: tremendous. There were so many beautiful and touching aspects of this play concerning the battle between a teacher who holds as ideal the "learning for learning's own sake" and a school's administration who cares only that "what" is known look and sound as good as possible. At heart is the struggle between how we view knowledge: is it that which enriches and enlivens our souls and spirits, informing and defining us as persons, or is a commodity to be quantified and brokered in order to "get into" a school or find employment.

I could write for a long time on this, but I haven't the time. If you are able, please see this's transformative. One of the more arresting scenes took place at the end of act one and I leave you with Hector (the idealist teacher) and his remarks:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

Perhaps in these lines I find the reason I write what I do...that my hand might grasp yours, that we might realize that we're never as alone as we think we are.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Recipes Site

I'm giving serious consideration to dropping "Jesuit Recipes" as a site. Sadly, I don't cook nearly enough to work up new recipes or even to discover recipes that I like. Unlike the novitiate where I had ample opportunity to be in the kitchen, I have only to cook one dinner and one appetizer (for a Thursday night social) each semester. What I would do, though, is post any recipe that I come up with on this site rather than having the two different sites.

The Cat's Meow!

I can't help myself - I'm in love with playing with the recording abilities of my computer.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

One More Tune

To round it out to three, I thought I'd include this tune. It's called "The Lament for Fred Finn" and it's the aire I played at my Grandpa Hagan's funeral.

Over the Moor to Maggie

I thought I'd try a reel yesterday, so I recorded this nice tune. I'm going to go into the city today for Mass (St Francis Xavier Parish in Manhattan) but when I return I have hopes to put down a few sets of tunes. As a teacher of music, this may be the best teaching tool I've yet found - I can record a set of tunes and then send them to my students...or post it on the 'net for anyone who is interested!

Just as a "religious life" moment: part of my intent in posting (I am a man of many intents!) these videos is to show that entering religious life *does not* mean that I've had to give up what is truly important and life-giving to me. Truth be told, I don't travel like I used to before I entered. But I've played in nursing homes and at funerals, for bishops and fundraisers, in each case using my music to enter into the lives and experiences of others.

Several months ago I posted this, reflecting how much my spirituality and the way that I have come to know and see my service of the Lord has been shaped and contoured by my music. I post it again:

The leader of the band ascends the stage and the crowd goes quiet. The fiddles and flutes have been tuned and the dancers wait for the music to begin. I raise my accordion and look to the leader who gives me a wink. He knows that I will make mistakes, that I will struggle to keep up; on my part, I have fear that I'll screw everyone up, that I will go off time, that I'll forget the tunes. And yet to see him looking at me assures me that I can be a member of the band and that I do have something to contribute to the music and the dance. The piano is struck and the first notes sound out and soon all the room is a swirl of dancers spinning and shouting and laughing and musicians playing and Guinness being poured. I lose myself in the music, finding that even when I make mistakes I am still at my finest because I am doing what I love - I am helping people to dance and I am playing with the One who summons forth the best of my music - and in that I rejoice. I catch the eye of the leader of the band and for the briefest moment, I glimpse an eternity of playing music. Then it is gone and I return to playing, no longer an accordion player who wishes to be in the band, but a musician who has found his voice in the tradition.

Quite to the contrary of losing my talent or skill (though I will admit to being a bit rusty) I have found that I am realizing more and more my skills as I consecrate them to the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth (between cooking and music, it'll be just a delightful place if I have anything to say about it).

So ask yourself: what do you have to offer? What skill/talent/passion do you bring that cries out to be put to its fullest use, that in developing it you will develop yourself as a more attentive and devoted Hearers of the Word which cries out to each of us in the quiet of our hearts?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yeah for YouTube!

So I had some time this afternoon and recorded a jig with iSight video camera. It's not the best quality of playing that I'm capable of, but it'll do for a first effort. I'll try and record a bunch of these and put them online in hopes that someone will stumble upon my playing and offer me a recording contract!

Yeah, I'm a Nerd

Now that I've discovered a new form of technology, I'm going to exploit it completely. I found this little clip a few days ago and I think it's pretty impressive. To be honest, I'd probably have added a ton of cool Ignatian-themed dialogue but, to the extent that it's two seminarians dueling with lightsabers, it's quite good.

From YouTube:

Watch St. Louis seminarians Michael Grosch and Edward Nemeth battle for the eminent position as Camp Director of Kenrick-Glennon Days summer camp, hosted at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary by St. Louis seminarians and the St. Louis Office of Vocations. Mike and Ed's performances are spectacular in this film produced by Jeff Geerling.

Jesuit Music Video

In an effort to be technologically sophisticated, I'm trying this as my first effort to link to the YouTube website. If this works, I have some nice suprises in the future!

**Now that I see it does work, let me ask: who said that Jesuits don't have a sense of humor?!?!***

Shameless Self-Promotion

Dr. John Shea sent me a link today along with a message that I'm to post this to my blog. Failure to do so, he threatens, will result in him sending an email to everyone he knows containing the same information. Because I think it's hysterical, I will include it:

Follow this link, look for professors whose last names begin with "D" and scroll down - see that red thing next to my name? That's a chili pepper. It means that a student thought/thinks that

I'm Hot!!!

Near as I can tell, I've never been told that I'm hot before. I guess it's pretty meaningless as I've taken a vow of chastity, but I think it's funny nonetheless. Sadly, I guess I harbor some fears about just who may have posted it....ah well, I'll take any (admittedly cheap) compliment I can get!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My new Pet

In honor of my new pet, I'm typing this post entirely in green.

When I was a kid, I really wanted a Chia pet. My parents insist that they bought me one, but I don't remember it at yet another instance of my being deprived as a child.

So several weeks ago I downloaded a digital Chia-Pet for my iMac computer. I love him! He's growing quite nicely and I think I'm going to have to download some trimming program so I can make him look like a bonsai or a poodle or something. I will admit that my first one "died" when I went home to Cleveland due to lack of "digital watering" (I was traumatized to see his upturned corpse on my computer screen)...which means that out of love I will be tethered to "Herb" the Chia-Pet.

Now, let me be fair to my parents. When I was home last week, my father didn't anticipate that I would be returning to Cleveland again until after my birthday. So, after a lovely steak dinner, didn't Big Bob Duns shock us all and bring out a birthday cake! I was so excited and moved that MY FATHER had remembered my birthday...until I realized that it was, in fact, the half-eaten birthday cake from my cousin's birthday celebration held the week before at my house. Nevertheless, the casually forgotten cake that lingered in the freezer for a week proved ample enough for my simple tastes and I'm sure that my parents will be very glad that I've publicly acknowledged their kindness and generosity.

Note to my Parents: It took me nearly twenty years to get over the death of my Paddington bear. I'll now be well into my forties before this slips from my memory.

A Birthday Greeting

I would be TOTALLY remiss if I did not give a huge

Happy Birthday!!!

to my dear friend Anne Hall.

For those of you who don't know her, Anne is an accomplished teacher and adjudicator of Irish dancing and she lives in Denver. It was also Anne who began this blog over two years ago, so in a way she's the mother of my ramblings these last few years.

So please join me in wishing Anne a very happy birthday. Anne, thank you so much for being such a good've taught me more about love and friendship than you'll ever know and I am a better man for having known you.

My favorite Anne Hall birthday story (well, my only one): Several years ago Anne's birthday coincided with the Baltimore feis. Well, due to horrible weather the building where the feis was to be held was totally without power and a number of the stages had to be moved outdoors. Sitting outside under an umbrella is not my idea of a fun day...even if I'm at the beach...and by the end of the day I was pretty dang exhausted. Well, during an interminable line of slow hornpipes, didn't some awful grasshopper see fit to jump down my shirt and then, unable to escape, begin to flutter about madly in my shirt. I look pretty ridiculous when I'm playing the accordion, so imagine me jumping up and down - playing all the while because I didn't want to throw a kid off time - while trying to rid myself of my unwanted guest.

That night, we went out with Anne's friend Nicole for a lovely dinner (I recall only that we had wine and crabcakes, although I suspect there was more food than that) and then walked along the waterfront.

Happy memories!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Yet another development

When I went to John Carroll University to do my MA in Religious Studies, I naively entered into studies thinking that I would dedicate myself wholly and unreservedly to my studies. I was totally wrong. I played for feiseanna pretty much every weekend of the year - including my own graduation weekend!

So why would I assume that I'd dedicate myself solely to studies here at Fordham? Yesterday, the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine (my vow name and the patron of catechists) I began to assemble my thoughts in regard to my latest project: I will be working with a small group of students (along with Kyle Gautreau, SJ) on what has been titled "Three Cheers for Catholicism." This seminar-style course will (hopefully) make use of Robert Barron's wonderful "And Now I See...A Theology of Transformation" as well as another small text.

So here's my basic approach: the first thing we will work on is learning to recognize that God is actively at work in our day-to-day lives. How do we do this? By what erudite means to I intend to help students realize that the wholly ineffable God has ANY desire to be in relationship with them? How do we come to know the God-of-our-lives, the Word made flesh, the Spirit that cries out from within the depths of our hearts?

Well, we're going to pray.

My thought is to begin with the Examen of Conscience (or Consciousness, if you prefer). Instead of explaining it right here (I'll work up a proper explanation for another time) click here and experience it for yourself. Sometimes at night, when I'm very tired, I use this to structure my day's closing prayer. My ultimate goal is to have a wise Jesuit (like Howard "Abba" Gray, SJ) record a version of this that would speak directly to students, but for the time being I'll make use of what's available.

Barron's book begins, "Christianity, above all, is a way of seeing." Through prayer I hope to help students develop a "spirit's eye" that will catch and muse upon the various ways God is present in their lives. The text itself follows the traditional tripartite path of spiritual theology contributed by the Psuedo-Dionysius: the purgative path wherein we see ourselves as sinful and in need of redemption, illuminative path wherein we come to know a God who wills our salvation and desires to be in relationship with us, and the unitive whereby the Word of God becomes "God With Us" and unites human and divine nature.

It should be an interesting semester and I'm confident there will be much to report back on. If anyone has comments or suggestions about what would be helpful to address in this little seminar, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Professor of Traditional Irish Music Studies

I received final word today that my course "Introduction to the Tin Whistle" will be offered this Spring at Fordham. So each Tuesday from 4:30-5:30 I'll be instructing a whole new generation of college students on how to hold, blow, and make sense of my favorite instrument (favorite, that is, next to the oboe). At this rate, I've taught at three Jesuit colleges: JCU, UD-Mercy, and soon it will be Fordham. I think I'll attempt a record at the number of colleges I can teach something at!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I often tell people that I have a bad memory. It's no exaggeration -- for some reason, I can usually recall minute details about some obscure topic, but I'll handily forget the important which car I drove to the grocery store or whether I've eaten breakfast on a particular day.

What I cannot forget, however, is the shower I took five years ago (please, control your imaginations). As I washed my (more ample but still receding) hair, the morning radio show hosts announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Given that these two bloviating fools often made outlandish claims, I reached out of the shower and turned off the radio...I have a strange sense of humor, but such a statement I did not find amusing.

Several minutes later I began to boil water for my tea and oatmeal and I turned on the television. Instead of being greeted by Katie Couric on the Today show, I met the awful and tragic images of two planes slamming into buildings and the realization that something awful, something evil, and something that defied all speech had taken place.

I wanted to memorialize this day, but I do not want to put words where gaping holes in time and space and lives now exists. I am not so brash as to think that I can dress up these events and find meaning in what is so meaningless, so senseless. I can offer only a prayer, a word of encouragement, and the pledge to do what can be done that such acts of horrendous violence are not perpetrated again, especially in the name of religion.

Mommies and Daddies, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, spouses, friends....all of them are the victims of this event. Innocent people who lived out their final day without any sense of what was going to happen...leaving behind innocent people who will live out their days wondering what in fact did happen.

My prayers today are with the victims and their families and loved ones. My prayer is for those who perpetrated these atrocities. My prayer is for each of us for whom it is so difficult to climb out from beneath the rubble that fell upon our hearts that Tuesday morning, for those who still struggle to find hope, for those who are still trapped by the debris and dust and horror of that terrible day.

Two Photos

I often get asked to show more pictures of my family. On the left you have me and my Grandma Hagan and on the right you have my father BBD (Big Bob Duns) and my mother Michele.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Flickr Update

If you're interested: I posted about 15 more pictures to Flickr today, which you can access by clicking on the photo montage at the right of the screen.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poverty of Words

About a week ago, another Jesuit (Props to Kyle!) and I discussed the blog forum. He encouraged me to be more controversial, to stir things up a bit. And, to be honest, there's a great part of me that does indeed wish to tackle some of the more contentious issues that face the Church and the modern believer/disbeliever today.

My desires stated, however, I am faced with the all-too-real knowledge that, regardless of what I say or don't say, not only I but the Society of Jesus will be judged for what I write. It is often very difficult to separate "a" speaker from an entire organization...critics of the Society of Jesus (since I'm most familiar with these critiques) will often hold up one particular Jesuit who says something that displeases them and then extrapolate his words and paint the whole of the Society with his brush. Not only is this not fair, but it is not charitable.

These websites can be a great tool for evangelization. I should like to think that others have learned something of me and of themselves by reading my musings over the past two years. I chuckle (and smack my head) when I read my early posts...they were insane! But with the prayer and experiences of the novitiate I think that I grew and matured enormously and what has emerged on these pages has been a genuine, sincere, and sometimes humorous attempt at articulating my experiences.

Nevertheless, I am bound by the knowledge that I have a public forum and that I must be careful in offering opinions about issues. It would do no one any good for me to bring shame or discredit to the Society or to the Church just so that I could shoot my mouth off.

It is a privilege to share my journey with others. Probably more often than I'd like, I post inane and trivial details about my days and weeks. But our lives are not made up of profound spiritual moments and realizations...they are, instead, mostly filled with the humdrum of our daily martyrdom, a silent living-toward-death that brings us slowly and inevitably toward the cross and to the horizon of our lives. I just have the tool (and audacity) to make these daily walks public.

So I thank you for reading and I thank you for praying. I believe because I pray. Each night I bring a battered heart to prayer and pray for a soothing balm; each morning I rise and give thanks for another day that I have to walk as a Companion of Jesus. If my blog has had any thread of success, perhaps it has invited people to think of their own relationship with God, invited them to question how they live their live, invited them to ask, "What does God want for me in this life?" Where do you find the greatest joy in life; where do you find excitement and love and life? Follow that light and do not be afraid to do so! Perhaps that is what I wish most to share with others and this blog is an entrance into the day-to-day (ideally!) journey of following Christ as a member of the Society. I recognize that "my" story isn't "your" story but maybe, just maybe, it will give someone courage to embark on a new chapter, or book, of his or her own tale.

Tomorrow I go to Cleveland for "Lukas Fest '06." Lukas Laniauskas, nSJ is professing his first vows (the same ones I professed last month) in the Society of Jesus on Saturday. Please keep him in your prayers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Looking toward the future

It's funny that the school year isn't but a few days old and I'm already making plans for the way I'll spend next summer. One of the great aspects of the Society of Jesus is that there is really an unlimited array of choices for spending one's summer. If you follow this link: Summer Opportunities you'll get a sense of what I'm talking about. Indeed, this list is certainly not exhaustive and the horizon of opportunity extends to the far reaches of the individual imagination.

One of the lessons I learned during my time at Loyola Medical Center is the importance of being a companion to other's during their times of need. Since I won't have enough German to go abroad this summer (Next year!) I began looking into various spiritual direction programs throughout the country. While I have little aspiration to spend my apostolic life in a retreat house (it'd be too quiet) I would truly love to be engaged in the ministry of spiritual direction throughout my Jesuit life.

In short, after looking at a variety of programs, I have settled on one not listed on the internet or one that even exists in any sort of formal way. Based on the ultimate approval of my formation director, I have asked Walt Farrell, SJ to guide me as a spiritual director. So next summer, if all goes according to plan, I will return to Detroit and hopefully direct several people on retreats. Learning from Walt is akin to learning from the teacher of Master Yoda from Star Wars. I don't know who taught Yoda, but he had to be pretty good...and Walt is better than "pretty good."

So that's "Ryan Update" number one. The second update is that I will not be playing the Mid-American Oireachtas this year. Due to a number of reasons, it is just not possible for me to play this year. It's sad - in the past 18 years or so, I think I've missed only one or two regional championships. Ah well, that's life. In its stead, I think I"ll go down to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Or I'll go stand outside the windows of the Today Show and wave like an idiot. Or I'll do both.

So there you have it. I'm off to pray for a bit (another plug for Pray As You Go and then I have two classes today: Aristotle and Theological Anthropology.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Lesson in Humility

One of the more poignant scenes from the life of St Ignatius Loyola is recounted in his biography. His dreams of working in Jerusalem thwarted, he felt that the better way to help souls was to begin studies. In order to do this, however, the thirty-something Ignatius had to go back and learn the fundamentals of, among other things, Latin which necessitated his sitting in class with children.

This week opened with a similar experience. The majority of the students in my German 101 course are 1st years and, while only eight years separates us, I can attest that eight years is a lifetime in many ways. I could extol what I feel is the benefit of affective maturation, but that would obscure the point of this post: I am by no means going to learn German with any great ease!

This language is tough! I thought Spanish was difficult, but this is enormously more challenging. I feel like a baby learning to pronounce words again, learning to count, learning how to say hello. Everyone around me seems to be picking it up so much faster and easier that it's pretty frustrating. With great ease do I normally express myself and, because I haven't yet gotten that far, I couldn't ask to go to the bathroom even if I needed to do so! (I can say hello, count to twenty, ask how you're doing, and tell you I speak English).

I just offer this humbling little experience for reflection. It makes me think of how frustrating it is for immigrants (legal or otherwise) who are thrust into a milieu where they are unable to communicate. It is crippling to be deprived of our speech and, as I am learning, learning a new language entails a great humbling and a regression to our linguistic infancy.

And I though my novitiate experienced tended to be infantalizing!

The language will come in time. I have tons of flashcards already and I've committed myself to studying German, so come hell or high water, I will learn it. I have the lofty goal of reading Rahner one day, but I doubt that it will ever happen...Karl's own brother, Hugo, is said to have remarked that a potential project was to translate Karl's notoriously dense prose into German! It is fun, nevertheless, to have the opportunity to learn a whole new language an∂ the prize of being able to order a good German beer in the German language is definitely a motivating prize.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Vow Day Gift

A dear friend - Marilyn Madigan - gave me this picture at our vow vigil. She used her great knowledge of Photo Shop to create this eery portrait...and I thank God white is not my color (or lack of color).

"Where there's Death, there's Hope! Vote Ryan for Pope!"

Even my own father found this to be an enormously amusing picture and I thought some of you might find it entertaining, too. Marilyn was able to see the Holy Father back in February and she actually in the pictures - glasses, second from the left, in the gray and black striped shirt. Her cousin, a nun, assisted in this masterpiece.

Sorry I can't get the dang thing to look right - I can't figure out why it won't turn for me.

German and a Trip Into the City

Fordham University's classes began yesterday and, at 9:30 in the morning, I could have been found in German 1001 (aka Baby German). After a summer spent working on my Spanish, this was a jarring transition - the words are harder to spell and I've no sense of how to pronounce anything. As a help to readers, particularly those who are fans of "The Sound of Music" a great lie has been perpetrated for many years: the proper pronunciation of "Frauline Maria" is not "Froy-line Maria" but is, instead, "Frowline Maria." It's not a big deal, I guess, but it's what I learned yesterday.

After class Drew and I spent the day in Manhattan. We walked a lot and saw many of the touristy sites. Indeed, we ran across huge crowds gathered for tonight's VMA's (Video Music Awards). It was so refreshing to see such a thriving city with so many people speaking so many different languages. Our day's trip ended with dinner with Father Karl Kaiser, SJ who happened to be in town meeting with alumni.

The train was PACKED with people on the way home and I stood for the whole trip. As I stood there, my imagination was captivated by the people around me. Many of these were people who had worked all day (it was now 8:00) and they were still in their work uniforms and were probably going home to prepare supper either for themselves or for their families. Many looked tired, relieved, distracted as the listened to their iPod, or nervous. A group of newly trained soldiers of the US Military were with us on our train's segment and they seemed so hopeful as they talked about deployment.

I mention this because it was such a grace-filled reminder of just who it is that I do my studies for. On a bad (ie, selfish) day I get caught up with abstract theological notions that do more to tickle my own intellectual curiosities than they do to help those who need to hear a word of challenge and encouragement. Growing up in a fairly middle-class parish, the people on the bus are the same people who live out the day-to-day martyrdom of faith, the simple acts of believing and trusting in a world that often seems stacked against them. Not that many of them would ever read my blog, but I'd like to think that writing here primes my pump in some way that will enable me through ministry to connect with the concerns of others.

By the by, I'll be in Cleveland next weekend for the First Vow ceremony of Lukas Laniauskas who is the newest member of the Detroit Province. I'll be in Friday and will go home Sunday evening. It'll be nice to stop back at the homestead - I have a ton of books I need for this semester!

Monday, August 28, 2006

I've been Tagged!

It's an idle evening, so I thought I'd surf the 'net for a little bit. Reading Joe's website Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam I see that I've been tagged. I really don't know what this means, but I suspect that I have to answer some questions. So, copying the questions from his site, here are my responses:

1. A book that changed your life.

In the Gloaming by Alice Elliot Dark. I read this collection of short stories in graduate school for a class on narrative and spirituality. The title of the book is the name of the lead-off short story, about a young man who returns home to die of AIDS. It's a powerful narrative of the transformative power of hospitality, of love, and of reconciliation.

2. A book you've read more than once.

I wish I could say that I'd read some deep theological treatise several times over (and for enjoyment, not for my inability to understand it on the first attempt). I cannot. I have read The Little Prince many times and find that, with each reading, I resonate differently with each character. Lately I've been feeling like the fox!

3. A book you'd want on a deserted island.
Hmmmmm, provided I had a lighter, a book with a lot of pages (I might need to build a fire). I'd probably read "The Brothers Karamazov" more because I find that each time I turn back to it, I find something wholly new and different.

4. A book that made you laugh.

"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. Brilliantly funny!

5. A Book you wish had been written.

In light of a conversation I recently had, Naming Grace would be a book that aimed at providing young people (or people of all ages) with a language for naming the graces in their lives. Too often we get stuck on abstract theology and I think what we need is a good primer on how to express our encounters with God, the God we meet in our day-to-day lives.

6. A Book you wish had never been written.

Any book about using the microwave for cooking. There's something just so unnatural about that!

This is the first time I've ever answered such questions. It's been a fun though experiment, one I can enter into without *too* much deep thought!


I've set up a Flickr account (see the cool flash-driven picture box on the right? Click it!!) so that people can see pictures of vows.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

I'm just back from a weekend spent at the Jogues Retreat house in Cornwall, NY. There the Ciszek Hall community was able to gather in order to have time for faith sharing and socializing. I'm deeply honored to be counted among such a talented pool of men and I look forward to spending the next few years here at Ciszek.

Now, let's start: Kudos to Michael and Brian English who will be returning today from their first trip to Ireland. The boys represented (well, I might add) the USA at the Fleadh this past weekend. Although neither returns with a medal (this year) I'm at a loss for words to express how proud I am of each of them. Medals are nice, but they collect dust; memories, which they have many, last forever and will nourish their music in ways unimaginable. So boys, welcome home and get to've school in the morning!

Speaking of school, my own classes begin this week. I'll be taking Plato, Aristotle, Theological Anthropology, and German. I'm definitely going to have a lot of work to do this semester, but I think I'll manage. Drew Marquard and I are together for three of the four classes (he's taking Greek instead of German) so the Detroit Province will be represented well in our classes.

A package with two CD's of pictures arrived today, so I'm going to sort through them and post a few online. If I can find a way to use another website to host my pictures, I'll put a link up to that as well.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

On-Line at Fordham

So I'm now fairly settled in my (rather spacious) room at Ciszek Hall here at Fordham. Later today I'll meet with my academic advisor and we'll try to piece together something of a schedule of courses - all I know is that I'm going to take Aristotle and Plato and, I hope, begin a study of the German language.

The transition has been relatively easy thus far. For those who are interested, my new aol screenname is ryandunssj and I'll try to leave it on most of the time. In addition, my computer has a kickin' web cam so you can see me if you are so inclined.

I'd ask for prayers this weekend: Michael and Brian English will be representing the USA at the Fleadh in Ireland. It's a great honor to qualify to compete at the "Olympics of Irish Music" (as one might think of them) and I know that they will be bolstered by your thoughts and prayers.

Classes begin next Wednesday so I'm sure that I"ll have just loads of things to write about then. I suspect, too, that I'll begin doing ministry and if my experiences at the hospital are any indication I'll more than likely use this space to process my pastoral encounters.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Wounded Knower

The Wounded Knower

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my entrance into the Society of Jesus. It's been a wild ride in so very many ways!

I fly to NYC tomorrow and will (hopefully) settle quickly into my new digs at Ciszek Hall at Fordham. Look for more posts later this week!

Friday, August 18, 2006


This is just a quick post as I unpack from my holiday in Toronto and prepare to return to Canada via Windsor for tomorrow's feis.

Brother John Moriconi, SJ, has put together a website for podcasts. For those of you who know how to do such things (I must confess that I do not yet know how, really, but have great hopes of learning in the very near future) you are able to download his reflections on scripture and listen to them on your iPod.

If you are so inclined, do stop by and have a listen! The link to his site is located on the right hand side of the page.

Monday, August 14, 2006

CPE Group Photo

Ruth, Patrick, Ryan, and Paula -- all alums of Loyola Medical Center's CPE Program.

First Pic

A picture from the reception. These are two of my cousins, Owen and Coleman Hagan.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Vow Day!

So today I dropped the "n" from "nSJ" and I've become officially "Ryan G. Duns, SJ". Today's ceremony was beautiful and I hope to post pictures of it on here very soon...just like I still want to post pictures from my trip to Cuzco!

The best part of the weekend was being able to spend time with those who are so important to me. Anne Hall came in after doing a feis and my friend Greg drove in after a wedding in Buffalo; Jeff and Nick came in from Cleveland and scores of family members made their way in to Detroit. The love and support I experienced these last two days is really only an indication of what a wonderful group of people I have in my life and, in no small way, the vows I pledged today will incarnate themselves in ways highly contoured and nuanced due to their influences.

Of special note: The SMMSJ (Society of Mothers of Members of the Society of Jesus) was particularly active - from Mother Nancy Loren I received an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Giada DeLaurentis' new book. I'm so excited! And from Mother Loretta MarquardI received a very fine trinket box with a wooden cross inset on the cover along with an engraved medal of St Ignatius. Mother Michele Duns, I'm sure, is working on embroidering something or another or trying to find individualized kegs for each of us.

I'm exhausted. In fact, given my normally cheery disposition it may be hard to believe but my face actually hurts from smiling so much today - yes, that many pictures were taken!

Grace and peace be with all of you. On to Fordham!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Regarding Gifts for Vows

I hate to be guache, but I'd like to say a word about gifts as I've received several emails asking about them.

The short answer: a card is nice, but don't send money (unless it is in off-shore accounts) or cheques or gift cards or my grandfather's dentures (or some other strange personal item!!). If a gift is given, it has to be turned over to the community. This being said, donations can be made to the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus (which I'm quite sure they'll take with much gratitude). Truthfully, the best gift you can offer is to remember me in your prayers.

So that's that. I'm off to pray!

Few and Far Between

So I'm beginning my pre-vow Triduum retreat out here at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, MI. This retreat begins three months after my 8-day retreat began back on May 8th. In that time I've been to Chicago, Cincy, LA, Lima, Cuzco, Omena, and Detroit! A lot of travel to be sure.

The next few days will be spent preparing spiritually and psychologically for vows. Following the vow ceremony on Sunday, I'll be off to Toronto and then on to Fordham so I will probably not be posting again until after the 22nd of August. Check back, though, as I may find time to put some pictures up on the net.

Peace and Prayers,


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I'm on Vacation until the 12th so there will be no new posts until then.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

¡Vamos a Cuzco!

We´re heading off to Cuzco tomorrow morning, which means that I´ll be away from the internet for a week.

For those in the States - stay cool! I hear it has been sweltering in parts of the country.

Not even a month until vows - crazy, huh? Please keep me and my classmates in your prayers and know that you are in mine (really - I pray generically for those who read my blog and for all those others I forget to mention by´s a handy catch-all to pray for the whole world!)


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Morning Musings

Two weeks from today and I´ll be back home in (hopefully) sunny Detroit. While it is true that six weeks will have passed by - a scant amount when one really thinks about it - it is enough time to have had a deep and lasting effect on my spirit.

As I type this, I look through grime-covered windows out onto a busy street where dogs roam freely and men seem to take every occasion to relieve themselves against the wall directly across the street. Because Lima is situated in a desert and it hardly ever rains, there is no drainage so to speak so the urine pools on the side of the road and, even when it has evaporated, the stench does not dissipate. Poor children and their mothers beg me to buy gum and sweets and old persons in wheelchairs beg at the side of the road. Horns blare each night and with a dearth of traffic lights crossing the road can be a perilous adventure.

The grime, the cloudiness, the pollution, the noise, the poverty...

If I lived here, I think I´d be miserable.

And yet, the people here are not simply miserable. The situation here is far too complex to be reduced to a single word. Nor are they without hope - yesterday, for instance, we visited the ¨Fe y Alegre¨ system of schools which provides free education to those who would otherwise go without. A work of the Society of Jesus, it is an endeavor to transform culture slowly through education. This work responds to the need of the people, a need they voiced and called out for...not unlike many who Jesus healed. When you think about it, Jesus never forced a healing on anyone; instead, he responded to their need for healing, for their desire to put themselves in his hands, to their trust in him. The cry of the people has been heard here in Latin America and, as a result, nearly a million children are currently students in this system.

I mention this today because it´s something affecting my own prayer. Often we look at the ¨poor¨and see the whole system of sin and devestation and resign ourselves to the enormity of the problem and excuse ourselves from having to do anything with the plaintive thought, ¨but, what can I do?¨ Maybe I´m just speaking for myself, of course, but I think this is a pretty common experience. But here I am learning of how much of an effect we can have, whether it be by dedicating our lives to teaching children technical skills or by supporting those works which aim to transform sinful structures. Such missionary zeal need not look afar! How can we contribute to the faith and values formation of our young (and not-so-young) that they find a living Christ who calls them more deeply into service. How do we bring ¨faith and joy¨to a jaded world, a soothing balm that reminds others that we are not without hope.

Very often people will say to me, ¨oh, your church has lots of money. What are they doing to help the poor?¨ Usually I cite a number of our works and try to demonstate to my interlocuter that the Church really does care for the poor. But I´m tempted to start asking, ¨Well, what are you doing?¨ because I think we are pretty good at passing the buck when it comes to the question of service and it´s far easier to throw stones at big institutions than to subject ourselves to critical reflection that may lead us from indolence into action.

Jeez, I feel unusually preachy for 7.30 am!!

I´m now off to learn Spanish. I wish all of you well and, while it will be hard to leave Live, I do look forward to returning and sharing with you the pictures of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu as well as heading off for vacation and preparing to take vows on August 13th.


Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame